Restrictions introduced to reduce the spread of COVID-19 have had major impacts on the living circumstances of Australians. This paper aims to provide insight into shifts in alcohol consumption and associated factors during the epidemic.
Design and methods
A cross-sectional convenience sample of 2307 Australians aged 18 and over who drank at least monthly was recruited through social media. Respondents were asked about their alcohol consumption and purchasing in 2019 prior to the epidemic plus similar questions about their experiences in the month prior to being surveyed between 29 April and 16 May 2020.
Reports of average consumption before (3.53 drinks per day [3.36, 3.71 95% confidence interval]) and during (3.52 [3.34, 3.69]) the pandemic were stable. However, young men and those who drank more outside the home in 2019 reported decreased consumption during the pandemic, and people with high levels of stress and those who bulk-bought alcohol when restrictions were announced reported an increase in consumption relative to those who did not.
Discussion and conclusions
A reported increase in consumption among those experiencing more stress suggests that some people may have been drinking to cope during the epidemic. Conversely, the reported decrease in consumption among those who drank more outside of their home in 2019 suggests that closing all on-trade sales did not result in complete substitution of on-premise drinking with home drinking in this group. Monitoring of relevant subgroups to assess long-term changes in consumption in the aftermath of the epidemic is recommended.