Drinking alone in coronavirus lockdown? You’re not alone

Turning to alcohol is not a good way to deal with the stress of the coronavirus pandemic.

Turning to alcohol is not a good way to deal with the stress of the coronavirus pandemic. Photo: Shutterstock

An increasing number of Australians are drinking alcohol alone more often to cope with coronavirus lockdown, a new study has revealed.

The survey, conducted by strategic brand consultancy Hall & Partners, found the proportion of people drinking alone had jumped from 20 per cent after two weeks of lockdown, to 25 per cent after seven weeks.

The data was based on an online survey of 319 Australians conducted on May 6, and another online survey of 320 Australians conducted between April 2 and 3.

In the early weeks of stay-at-home rules, fear of not having enough alcohol to last through lockdown sparked mass panic-buying and led many retailers to introduce purchase limits.

During the past seven weeks in isolation, our nation’s strong attachment to alcohol hasn’t changed – but the reasons for drinking it may have.

Anxiety and stress has now replaced boredom as the main reason for reaching for the beers, spirits or wine bottle, respondents in the survey reported.

Of those, 57 per cent were aged between 30 and 59 years old – an age when many people are responsible for taking care of their families.

These findings suggest that after people adjusted to the stay-at-home measures, the pressure of economic hardship started to sink in and prompted many to turn to alcohol as a coping mechanism.

Dr Kathryn Fletcher, a clinical manager at alcohol abuse support service Hello Sunday Morning said it was “no surprise” that anxiety and stress were driving drinking habits during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There are compounding worries about the virus itself, increased family tensions, financial challenges, the stress of separation from their usual social support networks, and sheer uncertainty about how this is all going to play out,” Dr Fletcher said.

“All of these factors increase the strain on people’s relationship with alcohol.”

From week two to week seven of lockdown, the share of Australians drinking more alcohol than usual rose from 17 per cent to 20 per cent.

On the other hand, there is a growing number of Australians who say they have reduced their alcohol intake since lockdown began (from 22 per cent to 29 per cent).

To reduce the risk of harm from alcohol, the new government draft guidelines recommend healthy adults drink no more than 10 standard drinks a week, and no more than four standard drinks in any one day.

Children under 18 should not drink alcohol at all, nor should women who are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to have a baby, the guidelines say.

The Alcohol and Drug Foundation has urged Australians to keep track of how often they’re reaching for the liquor cabinet during lockdown.

“If you are feeling sad, lonely, stressed or anxious, it’s best to avoid drinking alcohol, as it can make these feelings worse,” CEO Dr Erin Lalor said.

“It’s really tough at the moment and we know that in times of crisis, alcohol consumption increases.”

Dr Lalor warned drinking too much alcohol could lead to dependence, accidents, injuries and life-threatening illnesses such as cancer.

If you’re worried about your alcohol consumption in isolation, take this quiz. 

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