A study published in January by La Trobe University’s Centre for Alcohol and Policy Research has examined alcohol consumption behaviours in Victoria in comparison to the rest of Australia through the first year of the pandemic.

The Drug and Alcohol Review outlines data collected in a longitudinal study of 775 participants between April and December 2020, and in the first nationwide lockdown, it was identified that alcohol consumption decreased in Victoria, but remained the same for the rest of the country when compared with 2019 consumption levels.

During the second Victorian lockdown, alcohol consumption remained relatively stable for both groups, despite Victorians being the only participants in lockdown, followed by an increase in consumption for both groups when Victorian lockdown restrictions ended in November.

Yvette Mojica Perez, PhD student from the Centre for Alcohol Policy Research at La Trobe University, said: “This is one of the few longitudinal studies that explored alcohol consumption throughout the first year of the pandemic.

“Interestingly, we found that participants in Victoria decreased their consumption during the first nationwide lockdown while participants from the rest of Australia reported no change in consumption compared to 2019.”

The results also showed that location-specific consumption was relatively similar across the country, with at-home consumption increasing, while consumption in someone else’s household, on licensed premises, and in public spaces decreased in the first year of the pandemic.

Further, the study found that pandemic restrictions had a greater effect on consumption in high-risk drinkers than low- and moderate-risk drinkers.

“The Covid-19 restrictions seemed to have had a bigger impact on high-risk drinkers who reported reducing their consumption, while consumption for the moderate and low-risk drinkers remained relatively stable,” added Perez.

It is believed by the researchers that restrictions on licensed premises heavily impacted high-risk drinkers, with participants in this group reporting a reduction of two standard drinks per day in November 2020 compared with the previous year.

While the availability of on-premise alcohol acted as a catalyst for reduced consumption in heavier drinkers, consumption remained stable for low- and moderate-risk groups.

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