ABS data up to November 2020 indicate that takeaway alcohol sales increased in Australia last year by at least $1.3 billion compared to 2019. The figure is likely to rise further when data for December is added.
According to the alcohol industry the takeaway sales have not made up for the reduced sale in on-premise retail such as bars, pubs, clubs and restaurants. However, the ABS data does show a concerning trend of increasing at-home consumption even as pandemic restrictions have been relaxed since November. Takeaway alcohol sales in November are higher than June, July, August and September when the country was under stricter COVID-19 restrictions.
About a third of the ABS data is reportedly from Victoria which was under lockdown till November. A survey conducted by Youth Support and Advocacy Service on 500 Australians in Victoria found that,
- 39% had increased their alcohol consumption during the lockdown,
- One in five reported consuming alcohol heavily,
- Men were more likely to consume more alcohol and consume heavily, and
- Out of those who did consume more alcohol, 73% were using alcohol as an unhealthy coping mechanism.
Reportedly there was an increase in takeaway sales of non-alcoholic and low-alcoholic category products in Australia last year as well. At the same time there was a trend of people spending more on liquor and opting for premium brands of alcohol.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has advised people to not use alcohol as a coping mechanism during the pandemic as it further deteriorates mental health. The WHO recommends to improve alcohol availability policies due to a number of reasons:
- Alcohol weakens immunity making people more susceptible to COVID-19 infection.
- Alcohol increases risk of violence and injury.
- Alcohol related diseases, accidents and injuries add to the high burden faced by healthcare systems.
As Movendi International reported previously, the COVID-19 lockdown in Australia poses a set of challenges for the country which can change the alcohol consumption behavior and norm for the worse. The takeaway alcohol use trend shows that this is now becoming true.
According to Professor Michael Farrell, director of national alcohol research at the University of New South Wales, alcohol purchasing behavior in 2020 was “a very complex picture”. Professor Farrell suggests improved employment conditions and greater spending power as reasons for Australians increase in takeaway alcohol purchases. Adjusting alcohol taxes to inflation and purchasing power is an effective policy measure which the government of Australia can invest in to prevent and reduce alcohol harm, including mental ill-health and violence.
The Sydney Morning Herald: “‘A complex picture’: Aussies drinking up at home even as pub restrictions ease“