By Antoinette Lattouf | 10 daily senior reporter
While memes about ‘quarantinis’ were popular during the start of the pandemic, a look at Australia’s drinking and eating trends paints a far less humourous picture.
A new online survey has revealed that while major changes in Australians’ drinking habits happened early on during the COVID-19 lock down, and may be easing somewhat, there are currently still worrying signs around alcohol and junk food consumption.
The number of people who say they are drinking more than they were pre-pandemic has risen slightly, going from 17 percent at the two-week mark of lockdown, to 20 percent now seven weeks in.
On the other hand, an extra seven percent say they are drinking less now than before, going from 20 to 27 percent in recent weeks — but its the reason behind some people drinking more which has drug and alcohol experts concerned.
The findings are the result of a survey of 319 Australian, conducted by Hello Sunday Morning — an organisation that describes itself as “a movement towards a better drinking culture”, seeking to help people change habits by understanding the triggers that make people drink.
While simple boredom was a big reason cited by many in April for drinking more, in May it’s anxiety and stress which has been singled out a major factor.
“It’s no surprise that anxiety and stress are key drivers of people drinking during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Kathryn Fletcher, Clinical Manager at Hello Sunday Morning.
The shift from boredom to anxiety is attributed to Aussies being weighed down by the economic realities ahead, such an unemployment..
“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. All of these factors increase the strain on people’s relationship with alcohol,” Fletcher said.
Isolation has also increased the habit of people drinking alone — rising from one in five people, to one in four.
Men were more likely than women to report drinking alone.
Some reasons cited for drinking more included people not needing get up as early because they’re working from home and not needing to commute into work, and an absence of consequences to having a hangover because they may not be seeing their boss every day.
Alcohol sale data analysed by Commsec, shows that alcohol sales from bottle shops rose by 25 percent over the last six weeks and have been consistently increasing since the beginning of May.
Guidelines set out by the National Health and Medical Research Council advise Australians to have no more than 10 standard drinks per week and to have at least one alcohol-free day per week.
In more research on pandemic consumption habits, The Heart Foundation teamed up with Coles to survey 500 Australians on what they’ve been eating during COVID-19.
The data shows one in three Australians say their diet is ‘worse’ in lock down. More than half say they have put on weight, or are feeling sluggish and slow.
Heart Foundation Group CEO, Adjunct Professor John Kelly, said isolation had made some Australians cut corners when it came to heart-healthy eating and drinking.
“With the pantry and fridge in tempting reach, we found 29 per cent of people were eating more to relieve stress and boredom, while 26 per cent were eating more desserts and nearly a quarter were snacking more than their usual habits,” Kelly said.
And even the pre-pandemic picture wasn’t promising.
“Even before lock down, poor diet was a leading risk factor for heart disease which, sadly, takes the lives of 48 Australians every day. As we slowly emerge, it may be hard to leave behind some of these unhealthy habits,” Kelly said.
The Australian National Physical Activity Guideline recommends Australians accumulate 150 to 300 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous intensity physical activity each week.