When lockdown was announced for Greater Sydney, social media was littered with photos of people rushing to the bottle-o to ‘stock up’. But is a boozy lockdown becoming a bad habit? The Feed asked the experts.
Like many other Australians, Erin’s drinking has increased since Greater Sydney’s lockdown kicked off.
“[I’m drinking] more because I’m bored and I have time to make cocktails,” she said.
Erin’s in her 20s. She said while she “never” normally drinks, she’s now throwing back up to four drinks three nights a week.
Ella, also in her 20s, has been six months sober after “drinking too heavily” throughout Sydney’s last lockdown.
She told The Feed she cut back after a few months of finishing off a bottle of wine each Friday during “Zoom work drinks”.
When it was announced Greater Sydney would be plunged into lockdown, photos of people scrambling to the pub for ‘last drinks’ poured in on Instagram.
The Feed observed Instagram story after Instagram story of so-called ‘COVID survival packs’: bottles of red in trolleys and homemade martinis in hand.
Instead of “Dry July”, captions read “Lockdown sorted” or “Cheers Sydney” next to images of bottle shop hauls.
Is hitting the bottle in lockdown a bad idea?
“Having your feed flooded with something like people rushing out to buy wine can make you feel like you should be doing the same, even if you know it’s not the best thing for you in this moment,” said Jackie Hallan, Head of Service Delivery at ReachOut.
Ms Hallan said COVID-19 restrictions have had a disproportionate impact on young people in Australia - and that some may turn to alcohol to cope.
“Many are feeling stressed about things like the future and employment,” she told The Feed.
“It’s important to be aware that in some cases alcohol can exacerbate mental health issues and make it even harder to cope.”
Ms Hallan said young Australians are drinking less than previous generations overall but the impact of the pandemic on their drinking habits remains to be seen.
“If you are a young person who perhaps is having a hard time with alcohol, take some time to consider how social media can play a role in that,” she said.
“Consciously following accounts that encourage you to do the things that support your mental health and wellbeing can have a big impact on how you feel.”
In times of crisis, alcohol consumption often increases, said Dr Erin Lalor, CEO of the Alcohol and Drug Foundation.
She said if new drinking habits that started during lockdown continue over time, you could be at risk of developing an unhealthy reliance on alcohol.
“Since the outbreak of COVID-19, people have been using alcohol as a coping mechanism. If you are feeling sad, lonely, stressed or anxious, it’s best to avoid drinking alcohol, as it can make these feelings worse,” Dr Lalor said.
ADF’s August 2020 research shows that while 20 per cent of Australians consumed less alcohol during the lockdown, a concerning number increased the amount they were drinking.
At least 12 per cent of people drank every day during lockdown, and one in 10 said that, on average, they drank more than 10 standard drinks per week.
“People need to understand that there are no health benefits of alcohol, in fact, consuming alcohol can weaken your immune system, disrupt your sleep and make feelings of stress and anxiety worse,” Dr Lalor said.
Taking a break from alcohol can result in positive short and long term health benefits such as weight loss and clearer skin, according to Katie Evans, CEO of Dry July Foundation.
She said a recent study by Dry July showed 86 per cent of Aussies believe they would benefit from less alcohol in their lives, and two-thirds of Aussies admit to being sober curious and want to try an alcohol-free period.
Ms Evans believes lockdown is the perfect opportunity to reflect on alcohol consumption instead of “letting bad habits form.”
“We’re encouraging people to get involved with Dry July… and most importantly help raise important funds for people who are affected by cancer,” she said.
Those undertaking ‘Dry July’ abstain from alcohol for a month to raise money for cancer research.
Since 2008, the foundation has raised over $60 million dollars for people affected by cancer and supported more than 80 cancer organisations.
“Everything Dry July funds is to make someone’s cancer journey a little easier and take away some of the stress and burden that comes with a cancer diagnosis,” Ms Evans said.
“This includes transport to treatment, accommodation near hospital, information services such as support lines and specialist cancer care nurses, comfort items and complementary wellbeing therapy programs like art therapy and exercise therapy.”
You can sign up for Dry July now at www.dryjuly.com.
Try the quick Drinking Calculator to find out how your drinking measures up: https://adf.org.au/reducing-risk/alcohol/alcohol-guidelines/
For free and confidential advice about alcohol and other drugs, call the National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline on 1800 250 015.
Lifeline also has a 24-hour phone and online counselling service available.