Cross-sectional survey of a convenience sample of Australians who use alcohol home delivery services
- Convenience was the most common reason for purchasing alcohol online for delivery.
- Using fast delivery services and using delivery services to extend alcohol consumption sessions was associated with heavy/ high-risk alcohol use.
- People aged 18-25 years reported poorer age verification practices for home delivery than in-store.
- Given the risks associated with alcohol delivery, regulation of these services should be improved to meet the same standards as bricks-and-mortar stores.
A survey of Australian adults who use popular alcohol delivery sites found one in five utilized a service to continue a home alcohol consuming session.
Services that deliver alcohol directly to the doorstep in as little as 30 minutes can prolong alcohol consuming sessions that would have otherwise ended, according to new research published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Review.
A team led by UNSW Sydney surveyed 1,158 Australian adults who used online alcohol delivery services to investigate purchasing patterns, consumer motivations and age verification practices. Participants were recruited through social media, and sampling was used to roughly reflect the age and gender proportions of the wider population.
The researchers found one in five survey participants had used an online delivery service to extend a home alcohol consuming session because they had run out of alcohol, with a third indicating they would have stopped if the option wasn’t available. Furthermore, those who had used a fast same-day service to continue consuming alcohol were six times more likely to use alcohol at heavy levels compared to those who had never used a service this way.
Increased access to rapid delivery of low-cost liquor from the comfort of the home could be impacting purchasing and [alcohol consuming] behaviors,” says Stephanie Colbert, lead author of the study and Ph.D. candidate from the School of Population Health at UNSW Medicine & Health, according to Medical Express.
As we saw in this study, some would drink less [alcohol] if the service wasn’t available.”Stephanie Colbert, lead author of the study and Ph.D. candidate, School of Population Health at UNSW Medicine & Health
Expansion in the home delivery sector
While alcohol home delivery services have been around for a while, sales have risen significantly in recent years. Now, more online retailers are offering to bring alcohol direct-to-door in under two hours than ever before to meet the demand.
More than a quarter of survey participants had never purchased alcohol online for delivery before the pandemic. Of the remaining who had, 44% had increased their use in that time,” Ms. Colbert says, as per Medical Express.Stephanie Colbert, lead author of the study and Ph.D. candidate, School of Population Health at UNSW Medicine & Health
Convenience, followed by cost, were the most common reasons for purchasing alcohol online for delivery. Most participants also used an online promotion, such a multi-buy deal, which was associated with buying more alcohol.
Over half of those surveyed said they had participated in an online promotion in their latest purchase, and they bought, on average, 22 more standard [alcoholic] drinks than those who did not participate, which is a substantial amount,” Ms. Colbert says, according to Medical Express.
The concern is that increased availability of alcohol in the community, which these services enable, may lead to increases in alcohol consumption and harm without having strong regulations in place and enforced.”Stephanie Colbert, lead author of the study and Ph.D. candidate, School of Population Health at UNSW Medicine & Health
Some countries, such as Scotland and Ireland, have moved to restrict promotions encouraging people to buy more alcohol than they otherwise would have. Similar restrictions in Australia may reduce the incentive for increased alcohol purchasing.
Consistent regulations are needed
The study also found poorer age verification practices for home delivery amongst adults under 25. They were significantly more likely to report never having their ID checked when receiving an alcohol delivery at the door compared to in-person at a bottle shop.
“Given the harms associated with the early consumption of alcohol, such as an increased risk of developing an alcohol use disorder in adulthood, it is important that appropriate age verification controls are in place for home delivery,” Ms. Colbert says. “Having identity verification by accredited identity service providers at the point of sale, which is set to be introduced for all same-day delivery services soon in NSW, would help to address this.”
In general, alcohol delivery regulations in most Australian jurisdictions have weaker standards than physical liquor stores across the board. For example, delivery drivers in many states aren’t required to hold a Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA) certification, despite being mandatory for bottle shop servers.
“An RSA clearly outlines the legal obligations of selling and serving alcohol, such as underage drinking laws, checking photo identification and recognizing the signs of intoxication,” Ms. Colbert says. “It’s something all delivery drivers should have at a minimum to bring these services up to the same standards we have for brick-and-mortar stores.”
In NSW, same-day delivery drivers are required by law to have an RSA and check identification for any same-day delivery, though not for next-day delivery, which can be left unattended.
“Strong policy is the lever we have to help manage the risks posed by these services while enabling consumer access,” Ms. Colbert says.
“If we have a two-tiered system of regulation that can be exploited, there’s a chance it will be.”
Online alcohol purchasing and home delivery has increased in recent years, accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic. This article aims to investigate the purchasing and alcohol consumption behaviour of Australians who use online alcohol delivery services.
A cross-sectional self-report survey with a convenience sample of 1158 Australians ≥18 years (49.3% female) who used an online alcohol delivery service in the past 3 months, recruited through paid social media advertisements from September to November 2021.
Quota sampling was used to obtain a sample with age and gender strata proportional to the Australian adult population. Descriptive statistics were generated and logistic regression used to explore variables that predict hazardous/harmful drinking (Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test score ≥8).
One-in-five (20.1%) participants had used an alcohol delivery service to extend a home alcohol consumption session because they had run out of alcohol and wanted to continue consuming alcohol and, of these, one-third (33.9%) indicated that if the service was not available they would have stopped consuming alcohol.
Using delivery services in this way was associated with six times higher odds of consuming alcohol at heavy/high-risk levels (odds ratio 6.26).
Participants who are younger than 25 years were significantly more likely to report never having their identification verified when receiving their alcohol delivery at the door compared with purchasing takeaway alcohol in-person at a bottle shop.
Discussion and Conclusion
Given the risks associated with alcohol delivery, regulation of these services should be improved to meet the same standards as bricks-and-mortar bottle shops.