Alarming rise in alcohol consumption
Being stuck at home all day and night can get incredibly boring, and many Australians are turning to alcohol to add a little excitement to their self-isolation. National polling by YouGov Galaxy, commissioned by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE), shows that 20 percent of Australians are buying more booze and 70 percent are drinking more than normal. One third (33%) are now drinking daily.
“Alcohol sales are up over the past month,” says FARE CEO Caterina Giorgi. “The industry wants you to believe that people aren’t actually drinking it. This research reveals the truth.”
The poll found that almost one third of people who bought more alcohol are worried about their own drinking or someone in their household’s drinking. Further, 28 percent are now drinking to cope with anxiety and stress. Experts are concerned about the harmful impacts this increased consumption could have on our nation’s health.
“Increased drinking by people worried about COVID might be good news for alcohol industry executives,” Giorgi says. “But it’s worrying news for our community’s health.”
The risks of too much booze
It’s true a drink can help you relax and improve your mood in the short term. But excessive alcohol consumption can have a negative impact on your physical and mental health.
“You may experience issues with sleep, digestion, blood pressure and even heart and liver function, just to name a few,” says nutritionist Rick Hay. “Your immune system will also suffer. Alcohol can weaken immune function and leave the body open to longer or more serious infections. It can also lower the body’s resistance to disease.”
Drinking too much can also do a number on your looks. Alcohol can leave you looking red and puffy in the face. It can also dehydrate your skin. Plus, it accelerates ageing.
“Too much alcohol can lead to a loss of collagen… which means more wrinkles,” says Hay. “Drinking too much can also lead to weight gain around the mid-section.”
On top of all this, alcohol can act as a depressant. So even though you may experience in a lift in mood after one or two drinks, this could quickly disappear if you keep drinking. A drop in mood could then lead you to drink even more. You may attempt to regain that original “buzz”, which can lead to a cycle of bingeing.
“Alcohol can be a stimulant while you’re taking it,” says nutritionist and herbalist Zoe Dent. “But this high in mood is followed by a comedown and the hangover the next day.”
Alcohol can also make you crave greasy, fatty foods. And it’s not just what you eat when you’re drunk, it’s what you eat the day after. Who hasn’t craved a huge greasy fry-up on the morning after drinking too much?
“It is tempting to drink more at the moment – especially if you’re home-schooling your kids!” says Dent. “But also because of boredom. It’s a bit like Groundhog Day, right? But I’m actually quite concerned, from a health perspective, as to how many people are going to have issues because of excess alcohol consumption after COVID-19.”
If you still want to enjoy your weekend beer, wine or cocktail, many companies are now making top quality, delicious alcohol-free beverages. They taste just as good as the real thing, without the nasty after-effects.
Concerned about your own or a loved one’s drinking? There are services that can help. The Alcohol and Drug Foundation has some great resources to help you reduce your risk of harm from alcohol or other drugs during the COVID crisis. They also offer information and referral services via a confidential hotline. Call 1300 85 85 84 to speak to a real person.