Joanita Wibowo

Mind

Australians warned over increased alcohol consumption amid coronavirus pandemic

Australians warned over increased alcohol consumption amid coronavirus pandemic

Psychologists have warned against excessive alcohol consumption as Australia saw an increase in alcohol consumption amidst the COVID-19 crisis.

A national YouGov Galaxy poll conducted earlier this month found that one in three Australians have been drinking daily since the coronavirus lockdown began. Out of the 1,035 respondents surveyed, a fifth were purchasing more alcohol and 70 per cent were drinking more than normal.

Psychologists have also seen more patients turning to online gambling, prescription drug abuse and tobacco and cannabis use, according to Australian Association of Psychologists (AAPi).

“People are currently drinking more alcohol due to many factors, such as lack of stimulation that we would usually get outside of our homes, increased stress particularly around finances and potential illness as well as job loss,” said Amanda Curran, registered psychologist vice president of the association.

“We are seeing individuals deal with work stress for those working at home, balancing work and childcare demands as well as home schooling demands.

“On top of that, the disconnect from social support systems such as friends, neighbours, therapists, church and family can contribute significantly to mental strain.”

AAPi executive director Tegan Carrison warned that high levels of drinking increase the risks for family violence, elder abuse and accidents.

“Alcohol alters your thoughts, decision-making and judgement as well as your behaviour,” Curran said.

“While alcohol may make you feel better in the moment and provide some relaxation, this will be short-lived and alcohol may very well increase your stress levels and impact negatively on your mental health if you are regularly drinking.”

Curran advised those unable to control their drinking to stay physically active and keep in touch with their support network.

“Just because you cannot see someone physically does not mean that you cannot connect via other methods. Writing letters, emails, making phone calls and video calls can help to reduce the depression that comes with isolation. You can talk to a psychologist via telehealth who can help you cope in positive ways, and even thrive.”

Carrison said there are options for those who have lost their income.

“Many psychologists are bulk billing clients experiencing financial hardship,” she said. “If you have been affected by the bushfires, you can access a psychologist directly for 10 additional sessions.”

The Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education, which commissioned the YouGov Galaxy poll, also urged governments to limit the marketing and delivery of alcohol products during the pandemic.