Searches for help to quit drinking daily have increased during the pandemic.
Searches for help to quit drinking daily have increased during the pandemic.

Worrying trend Aussies are searching

Australia's drinking culture is as flawed as it is celebrated but after years of worry over the effects of binge drinking, the pandemic appears to have swung us the other way into drinking more consistently.

New data from not-for-profit responsible drinking organisation Hello Sunday Morning has found a sharp decrease in people looking for help with binge drinking and a corresponding increase in people looking for help to stop drinking "every day" during the coronavirus pandemic.

Women reported drinking substantially more during the pandemic.
Women reported drinking substantially more during the pandemic.

It's all too tempting to knock off at your home office and pour yourself a glass of wine in the kitchen quicker than you could walk from your real office to the pub.

That's if you're lucky enough to still have a job and be able to do it from home.

Those who have lost their jobs now face an uncertain future but at least they have all day to worry and stress about it.

The organisation's data showed a 61 per cent decrease in people looking for help with binge drinking since the second week of March, and a 45 per cent increase in searches seeking help with daily drinking that started trending upwards around a month later.

 

 

Two-thirds of the Google searches that brought Australians to the organisation's website related to weight loss effects of giving up alcohol, suggesting those who gained a few quarantine kilos might be looking towards ditching the drink as a way to fit back in their office attire.

Downloads for the organisation's Daybreak app, which provides support for people looking to change their relationship with alcohol, also increased beginning in April.

App installations were up by 52 per cent compared to the same time period the year before, and have remained high since.

Hello Sunday Morning also said the data anecdotally suggested the problem of binge drinking may be related to cultural and social expectations, since social distancing and lockdown restrictions meant less people gathering to drinks with friends in pubs, clubs, and parks around the country.

But lockdowns aren't the only factor.

"What we're seeing is a cocktail of social isolation, unemployment, change in domestic status, increasing family tension and deepening anxiety driving patterns of increased alcohol purchasing and consumption," Hello Sunday Morning CEO Andy Moore said.

Hello Sunday Morning's Daybreak app provides professional and community support to people trying to change their relationship with alcohol.
Hello Sunday Morning's Daybreak app provides professional and community support to people trying to change their relationship with alcohol.

"Paralleling this, we're seeing our Daybreak members seeking support from the online community to cope with the impact of these stresses and their heightened vulnerability to drinking as a coping mechanism.

"The fact that binge drinking search terms have also massively decreased can be attributed to the fact that binge drinking is a cultural phenomenon, and during lockdown, there was less social pressure to do so," Mr Moore said.

Last month, the Australian National University showed research suggesting we were drinking more frequently during the pandemic than before.

The study used self-reported data collected in May, and found that women were upping their drinking more than men.

Lack of work appeared turned men to the drink, while increased stress had women

"For males, a strong predictor for increased drinking was because of a loss of job or decline in working hours," ANU Centre for Social Research and Methods Professor Nicholas Biddle said.

"For females, a strong predictor for increased drinking was having a child-caring role, and for both sexes, but particularly males, psychological distress was also a key driver," he said.

But the other reason people were drinking more appears to be due to a lack of anything better to do.

Almost half of the men in the study said "boredom" was the main reason they were drinking more.

Pandemic aside, drinking and smoking have been declining in recent years.
Pandemic aside, drinking and smoking have been declining in recent years.


While the study found drinking had increased, most people reported only a modest increase, around 45 per cent reported drinking one or two more standard drinks a week than they had previously, while close to 28 per cent said they'd had three or four more drinks a week.

Unsurprisingly, those most at risk were the ones who already drank more before the pandemic.

"Those individuals who increased from an already high base, or those who have had an increase in alcohol consumption alongside a worsening in mental health outcomes, are likely to be of the greatest concern for public policy," Prof Biddle said.

Last week the Australian Institute of Health and Wellness revealed the results of their National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2019.

It found younger generations were less likely to smoke, drink and use drugs, and more Australians were reducing or giving up drinking, largely driven by health concerns.

Between 2016 and 2019 the amount of "ex-drinkers" rose from 7.6 per cent to 8.9 per cent.

The amount of smokers hitting darts daily also dropped from 12.2 per cent in 2016 to 11 per cent last year.

In 1991, one in four Australians said they smoked every day.

The survey found smoking rates increased in relation to "socio-economic disadvantage", while "the most advantaged areas" reported the highest rates of illicit drug use.

The survey also found Australians increasingly in favour of cannabis use and most of us also supported pill-testing.

The 2019 survey found 11.7 per cent of Australians over 14 had used cannabis within the past 12 months.

Some of them claimed to only use it for medicinal purposes, but less than four per cent of them had it prescribed by a doctor.

Originally published as Worrying trend Aussies are searching


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