Internationally, surveys show the initial impacts of the global pandemic have influenced people’s level of alcohol use in different ways. Most people (about a third to half) report drinking the same volume and at the same frequency, as they did before the pandemic – some of those may be pre-contemplative, contemplating, or preparing for change. Others (20-30%) increased their use of alcohol, possibly relapsing to levels of drinking used during times of previous excess stress.
In Aotearoa, we experienced similar changes to comparable countries, and positively, a large proportion of alcohol consumers (22-34%) have used this period of time to jump into action and make reductions in their drinking. Many saw the change in their usual routine as an opportunistic time to prepare for change and make broader changes around alcohol, physical health and lifestyle. This period of time has influenced many people to take-stock, contemplate what’s important in their lives - prepare and act on those desires and motivation to change.
Now two years in, we know that many people are understandably tired and fatigued. There are signs of hope and recovery; however, we have new challenges around inflation and the cost of living. Some people will have managed to maintain the changes they have made, others will have relapsed to previous levels, and others will now be contemplating change – perhaps for new and different reasons.
This opportunity for change awaits, wherever we are in the cycle of change - for those who are pre-contemplative, contemplative, preparing, taking action, or maintaining change, along with those who may have relapsed, stay hopeful and recognise that change, even in this climate can be positive, and possible.