Covid-19’s impact on drinking

alcohol and drug issues

Covid-19 is changing our alcohol purchasing and consumption patterns in individual and unexpected ways, demonstrating resilience and a focus on self-care, according to a new UNSW study.

The study, ‘Distilling our changing relationship with alcohol during Covid-19’, looks at how the pandemic has affected alcohol consumption and purchasing in NSW before, during and after the NSW lockdown. Supported by the UNSW Covid Rapid Release Research Fund, the study also examines the extent to which these changes have been sustained post-lockdown.

“There is not one story here. As such our findings suggest that future policy to curb problematic drinking should take a more targeted and nuanced approach towards different groups as a one-size approach to policy does not fit all,” says Professor Alison Ritter, Director of the Drug Policy Modelling Program at UNSW’s Social Policy Research Centre.

Majority report no change or decreased consumption

Two in three people surveyed reported no change or a decrease in their alcohol consumption during the pandemic.

Additionally, participants who reported having an average of 20 standard drinks per week pre-lockdown were the most likely to reduce consumption, the study found.

“This level of drinking is above the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) guidelines for low-risk drinking,” says Professor Ritter.

The closure of licenced venues diversely affected different age cohorts, with younger people, especially Generation Z (18-24-year-olds), reporting a significant decrease in alcohol consumption.

However, there has been some public concern that women are drinking more than men during the pandemic, Professor Ritter says.

While ‘on-premise’ alcohol availability all but ceased during lockdown, ‘off-premise’ availability increased, with a statistically significant increase in purchasing from online alcohol delivery services, the study found. However, this did not align with an increase in alcohol consumption.

 Click here to read the full report.