Actually, Lockdown Might’ve Made Us ~Healthier~ People

Back in April, a YouGov Galaxy poll for not-for-profit group Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) emerged claiming that Australians were panic buying alcohol—among other things, like toilet paper—during lockdown. According to the poll, 20 percent of the 1000 people surveyed were buying more than normal and 70 percent of that fraction were drinking more than normal on the daily. But if that study was true, it sure wasn’t aimed at Gen Z. In fact, according to a new report, we’ve not only collectively drank less during COVID-19, but we’ve picked up healthier lifestyles.

“Cheers to that, good chap,” I say in my best Matt Berry impersonation, holding a drink of ice cold water in a wine goblet, listening to my favourite podcast and stretching for long periods of time. 

A new study by the University of New South Wales’s (UNSW) Social Policy Research Centre (SPRC), titled Distilling our changing relationship with alcohol during COVID-19, examined the way our national drinking habits have changed during this period of lockdown. The study, which interviewed people from various age groups—Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X and Boomers—and over three stages of lockdown—February, May and July—found that while our parents may be doing more Zoom drinks and drinking at home, people our age have actually drank a whole lot less. And, tbh, IDK about you, but I and a lot of my pals can relate.

At least 43.6% of people between 18-24 years old who participated in the study said they had drank less during this period. An additional 30.8% admitted that they had drank more, with the drinking habits of 25.6% of Gen Z peeps featured in the study remaining about the same. 

By contrast, only an average of 21% of Millennials, Gen X and Boomers drank less during quarantine, with some drinking more, as the previous report found, and many remaining the same—41% of millennials in particular (25-39 year olds) drank more.

According to Professor Alison Ritter AO, Director of the Drug Policy Modelling Program at UNSW’s Social Policy Research Centre, via UNSW’s newsroom, a lot of those numbers has to do with the sudden closure of licensed venues—clubs, bars and gig culture being indefinitely postponed.

“In their absence, young people reduced their alcohol consumption,” Prof. Ritter said. “People older than this, across all three older generations–Millennials, Gen X and Boomers–however, did not.”

“Quite a few people stopped drinking altogether and in fact, talked about lockdown being a catalyst for changes to exercise to diet, to their alcohol consumption, and so on,” Prof Ritter added, via Sydney Morning Herald. “We need to celebrate people’s capacity and resilience and agency and self care.”

Interestingly, Gen Z drank less during this period but are part of the demographic that have had their mental health hit the hardest during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a study led by Jill Newby from UNSW and the Black Dog Institute, published in late July in the science journal, PLOS One, Newby found that people’s mental health had significantly worsened during the pandemic. 

Specifically, one in four were worried about getting infected with the virus, with one in two worried about their friends and family catching it. Nearly half of people were more worried about being lonely, financial troubles and uncertainty of the future. And, alarmingly higher levels of depression, anxiety and stress increased by 62 percent, 50 percent and 64 percent, respectively. 

Quick cheeky side note: Black Dog are currently running a trial offering 250 people the chance to get six hour-long counselling sessions for free. You’ll even be reimbursed $100 for taking the time to complete the sessions. Check it out here.

So, undeniably, while we are drinking less during this pandemic, that doesn’t necessarily mean our mental health is improving. There’s no concrete stats on just how badly our mental health has been impacted by this pandemic period, but it wouldn’t be unfair to say it’s royally fucked us over and dramatically increased our anxiety, depression, stress and fear about the uncertain future. But, instead of using drinking as a coping mechanism, perhaps our generation is talking more about our battles with our mental health issues, meditating, creating, and turning to other healthier self-care practices and tools, like, oh, idk, therapy

Julian Rizzo-Smith is a writer and producer. He also claims to be a vine historian, avid connoisseur of low-fi beats, indie hip hop and Kermit memes. In a perfect world, he’d be married to Tyler the Creator, own an Arcanine and a Lapras, and don his own Sailor Scouts uniform. He tweets @GayWeebDisaster, which is also, coincidentally, how one might describe him.