Heavier alcohol consumption through COVID-19 has widespread impact

Friday 17 July, 2020

Australians are drinking more since the coronavirus pandemic escalated. The impacts are far reaching – affecting the physical and mental wellbeing of many.

A new study conducted very recently by the Australian National University shows that overall, people have been drinking more frequently during the pandemic than in the three years prior.

The lead researcher, Professor Nicholas Biddle, said the findings show the increase was higher among some groups “including women aged between 35 and 44, women who reported a large increase in caring responsibilities, and men whose hours of work has been cut back during the pandemic.”

As many parents juggle working from home and home-schooling their kids – while others face financial uncertainty – it's understandable that many people will be experiencing increased anxiety levels at the moment. 

“For both men and women in these groups, psychological distress and challenges from stress and economic uncertainty have correlated with increases in their drinking,” said Prof Biddle.

Disappointingly, the alcohol industry have been taking advantage of this situation by heavily promoting their products throughout lockdown.

Women with unplanned caring responsibilities were among the largest group of Australians with a reported increase in drinking.Women with unplanned caring responsibilities were among the largest group of Australians with a reported increase in drinking.

These trends are alarming when you consider the impact alcohol has on a person’s cancer risk – a link most people in Australia are still unaware of.

The latest research from the Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer at Cancer Council Victoria has found only 39% of Australians are aware of the link between alcohol and cancer.

Even less people are aware of the connection between alcohol and the seven specific cancer types it’s linked to: breast, bowel, mouth, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus, and liver cancer.

Alcohol is estimated to be responsible for approximately 3,500 cancer cases in Australia each year.

But thanks to your support, we can bring this number down by increasing awareness of the facts: the less a person drinks, the lower their risk of developing a cancer caused by alcohol.

How to reduce your drinking to reduce your cancer risk

If you’re not sure how much alcohol is too much, the Australian Government Department of Health outlines that healthy men and women should drink no more than 10 standard drinks per week, and no more than four standard drinks on any one day.

It’s important to remember that there are more standard drinks per serving of alcohol than you might expect. For example, most full-strength cans of beer are about 1.4 standard drinks, as is an average serving of wine (150ml).

Although these recommendations are a good guide for those who drink frequently, it’s important to remember that drinking alcohol is never free of risk.

If your alcohol intake has increased since lockdown measures were introduced – you’re not alone.

But by putting in place a few achievable goals around cutting out alcohol, you can cut your cancer risk and feel the immediate benefits of reduced drinking too.

Try having at least one or two alcohol free days each week, and reflect on how you feel the next day. Or, next time something triggers you to reach for a drink, try going for a walk around the block instead.

If you feel overwhelmed about cutting back your alcohol intake or are not sure where to start, reach out to your doctor for professional advice.

Cut back and make a difference through Dry July

Dry July

Dry July is a fantastic opportunity to cut back on alcohol while also supporting those touched by cancer.

Participants of this fundraising challenge go alcohol-free for the month of July to raise funds for people affected by cancer. The funds raised go towards the mission work of a select group of cancer charities – including Cancer Council Victoria’s vital support services.

With two weeks left in July, $479,909 has been raised for Cancer Council Victoria by 1,997 fundraisers – and the donations are still rolling in!

If you want to improve your drinking habits following lockdown, read our tips to cut out alcohol.

There are some non-alcoholic options, beneficial habits to put in place when you start cutting back, plus some stories of others who decided to limit their consumption.

Tips to cut out alcohol