Many Australians have picked up new habits during the coronavirus lockdown with almost one in eight drinking alcohol every day since the pandemic began, a survey has found.
The Alcohol and Drug Foundation quizzed more than 1000 people with a concerning number reporting they were drinking more than usual.
One in 10 people reported consuming more than 10 standard drinks per week, increasing the risk of alcohol-related injury and diseases like cancer.
Associate Professor Terry Bowles, a habit formation expert from the University of Melbourne, said many people have picked up new habits since the pandemic began.
Today we launch a new campaign to raise awareness of how little habits can turn into big problems. Our aim is to help Australians recognise their new, unwanted habits and seek help to reduce their risky drinking. Help us spread the message: https://t.co/brmBPAK2gQ #breakthehabit pic.twitter.com/TJq78Piu3o
— ADF (@AlcoholDrugFdn) August 9, 2020
“Routine behaviours which can have a profound impact on our lives do not take a long time to form,” Professor Bowles said.
“So, as restrictions are gradually lifted across Australia and we emerge from months of isolation, we have passed the threshold of time required to establish new habits.”
Nearly one in five people said they wished they’d drunk less during the COVID-19 lockdown, with half hoping to cut down in the future.
The survey results come as the foundation launches a new campaign on Sunday, Break the Habit, to raise awareness of how quickly new habits can become embedded.
It will encourage people to consider their recent drinking patterns, help them recognise problem signs, and how to turn them around.
The campaign will also highlight that it takes just 66 days on average to form a habit, about the same period many Australians have spent in lockdown.
Even small increases to the amount of alcohol drunk can become harder to shift over time.
Alcohol and Drug Foundation chief executive Erin Lalor said it was unsurprising people had looked for different ways to cope.
“The last few months have been incredibly hard for everyone, particularly for those who have lost work, social connectedness and … lost loved ones,” Dr Lalor said.
“We’ve all been trying our best under challenging, never-before-seen circumstances.”
The longer a habit is left to form the harder it can be to change, Dr Lalor said.
She encouraged people to reach out for practical support.
“Even small steps such as introducing alcohol free days into your week, or having one less drink a day, can have a powerful impacts,” Dr Lalor said.