Alcohol-related health services see peak in pandemic

The National Alcohol and Other Drugs Hotline received 25,000 calls in 2021, raising concerns about Australians’ post-pandemic drinking habits.

The number of calls to alcohol support services in 2021 was triple that made before the COVID-19 pandemic.

A new report from the Alcohol Research and Education Foundation attributes the surge to higher levels of stress and anxiety, as well as boredom and isolation during lockdown.

Parents, the unemployed or people with precarious jobs were all more likely to drink during the pandemic.

The report released on Friday shows Australians made 25,000 calls to the National Alcohol and Other Drugs Helpline last year, up from around 7,800 calls in 2019.

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Research director Luke Hutchins said the psychological impacts of coronavirus have been linked to riskier drinking.

“The demand for help will not go away just because the restrictions have eased,” Mr Hutchins said.

“The effects of the pandemic have been deeply felt at all levels of our community and will continue to be felt for years to come.”

The report refers to a 2020 Australian National University study which found that around one in five people had increased their alcohol consumption.

Around one in four actually reduced the amount they drank while around one in two Australians drank the same amount.

The foundation urges more monitoring of the way people drink, as well as closely monitoring the use of online alcohol delivery and the strengthening of support services for women – alcohol being a dominant factor in the domestic violence.

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