For the first time in four years the number of Australians who use alcohol has increased. This rise is driven by heavy marketing by the alcohol industry, exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic.

The last time there was a spike in the number of Australians who use alcohol was in 2016. Now, four years later, the year on year number of alcohol users in the country has risen from 13,021,000 Australians (66.2%) in 2019 to 13,337,000 (67.0%) in 2020 according to Roy Morgan’s Alcohol Consumption Report. This means an additional 316,000 Australians consumed alcohol in 2020 compared to 2019.

Roy Morgan conducts this study every year on a sample of 50,000 Australians. They measure average alcohol consumption of adults (18+ years) in a four week period as well as patterns of alcohol use.

Consumption of wine and liquor increased the most in 2020. Ready-To-Drink (RTD) alcohol also increased in 2020 compared to 2019.

Concerningly, those over 80 years of age had the highest increase in wine use. Meaning more older Australians used wine last year. In terms of liquor, the highest increase was among 25 to 34 year olds.

However, the number of Australians consuming beer, cider, liqueurs and fortified wines decreased in 2020 compared to 2019. Beer consumption has been on a downward trend in Australia and if the trend continues liquor is set to be consumed by more Australians than beer in 2021. Because liquor usually contains a higher alcohol content than beer products, there is concern about this development for public health reasons.

Previous data from Roy Morgan showed that in 2020 during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic 11.3% of Australians bought alcohol online in 2020. This was a major increase of 7.9% from 2019 figures which was at 3.5%.

Liquor outlets are benefitting from the increase in the online sale of packaged alcohol. The average spent buying liquor online in a week is $124 compared to only $71 when buying in store. A difference of over $50.

The data shows that the alcohol industry strategy of exploiting the ongoing public health crisis through pandemic-centric marketing worked. But Australian society pays is negatively affected by rising alcohol harms.

Predatory marketing by Big Alcohol driving alcohol harm in Australia

The Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) explains that predatory marketing of the alcohol industry during the pandemic is the cause for the rise in alcohol sales and consumption.

During COVID-19 we’ve seen alcohol retailers and online delivery companies engage in prolific marketing that promotes using alcohol as a way to cope during the pandemic,” said Caterina Giorgi, Chief Executive of FARE, as per Yahoo News

Caterina Giorgi, chief executive, FARE

Research by FARE and the Cancer Council WA found that Australians were exposed to an alcohol advertisement every 35 seconds on Facebook and Instagram. 

The alcohol industry perversely used the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis as the largest global marketing campaign to drive consumption and protect their profits at the cost of people’s health and well-being. Governments around the world have largely failed to protect their people by using evidence-based alcohol policy solutions as part of the response to COVID-19

Already Australia is seeing the negative effects of the rise in alcohol use. Family violence services are seeing an increase in alcohol-related family violence. Alcohol and other drug treatment services are also seeing more people reach out for help with alcohol.

FARE calls on the Australian government proven alcohol policy solutions to better protect citizens from Big Alcohol’s practices: 

  • Improving the rules around the currently largely unregulated alcohol marketing,
  • Limiting late night and rapid online alcohol delivery, and
  • Boosting investment in alcohol and other drug services to help reduce alcohol-fuelled harm.

Source Website: Roy Morgan