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Victorians boozed and ate their way through the pandemic, with half gaining weight and more than one in three drinking more often

A survey of 500 Victorians has revealed half gained weight in 2020 and more than one in three (39%) drank more alcohol than usual during a very trying year. 

The febfast survey was conducted YSAS in December 2020 via an online Ipsos panel, has revealed higher rates of binge drinking and consumption of fatty and sugary foods during the year.

Around 60% of survey takers said they’d gained weight and the vast majority desired to cut down on sugary foods in 2021.

Women were far more likely to have turned to unhealthy eating and men were more likely to binge drink. Those in metropolitan Melbourne, who underwent months of strict lockdown, were also more likely than their regional and rural counterparts to drink and eat more.

Of those who said they drank more than usual in 2020, one in three drank to blackout and/or regret at least once during the pandemic.

The findings have been released ahead of the annual febfast campaign, to provide anyone looking to take a break from alcohol and sugar a perfect opportunity to do so.

“Febfast really couldn’t be more timely,” CEO of YSAS, Andrew Bruun said.

“Any Victorian will tell you we’ve had a really tough 12 months – first with a large swathe of our state and country ablaze and then the global pandemic and the subsequent recession, job losses and difficult lockdown conditions. This survey really brings it home that during lockdown in Melbourne, in particular, many of us turned to alcohol and sugar as a coping mechanism.

“Now that the pandemic in Australia is under control and strict lockdowns have eased, it’s no wonder almost all of our survey takers said they wanted to get their health back on track this year.

“The beauty of febfast is that it is the perfect opportunity to really motivate yourself to kick those unhealthy habits to the curb: whether it’s taking a break from alcohol, cutting down on the fast food, chucking your cigarettes out or even taking a break from doom scrolling, there’s a benefit for everyone. We are expecting record numbers of participants and urge all Australins to get on board.

“The febfast campaign in 2020 took a hit during the bushfires as Australians very understandably dug deep for those affected, but we hope Australians will return to the febfast campaign this year, because we all deserve to start 2021 healthier and happier.”

Febfast – run by the Youth Support and Advocacy Service (YSAS) – is their only fundraiser for the year. Funds raised go towards assisting severely disadvantaged young people in Victoria and South Australia to recover from serious drug, alcohol and mental health problems, which were only exacerbated by the pandemic.

Individuals can sign up and ask friends and family to sponsor their health journey for a month and businesses can sign up their teams to get healthy together.

Register here: www.febfast.org.au

Key findings from the poll of 500 Victorians about their pandemic drinking and eating habits

Alcohol consumption

  • One in five survey takers drank heavily at least once a week during lockdown (defined as more than five drinks in a sitting), one in four in metropolitan Melbourne. The 30-49 group were more likely to drink heavily during lockdown (one in three) and men were twice as likely than women to answer yes to this question (31% male versus 19% female).
  • More than one in three surveyed said they drank more alcohol than usual in 2020, particularly those in metropolitan Melbourne (41% answered yes to this question).
  • For those who drank more alcohol during lockdown, three-quarters (73%) said this was because of stress associated with the pandemic and one in three drank to the point of blackout or embarrassment. Men were more likely than women to have drank alcohol to blackout (37%).
  • Almost half said they wanted to reduce the frequency and volume of their alcohol consumption in 2021.

Unhealthy eating

  • Half of survey takers said they ate more unhealthy food in 2020, two-thirds of young people aged 18-29 agreed. Women were more likely to have eaten sugary and fatty foods during the pandemic.
  • Almost 60% of survey takers said they gained weight during the pandemic, 65% among women.
  • Of those who gained weight, 45% gained 3-4 kilograms, and one in three gained 5-9 kilograms. One in 10 gained more than 10 kilograms. Women were far more likely than men to have gained weight: 37% of women surveyed said they gained more than 10 kilograms, opposed to 11% of men.
  • A vast majority of survey takers (82%) said they wished to cut down on sugar in 2021. The 30-49 group was most likely to want to cut down sugar, which is perhaps unsurprising as this group gained the most weight during lockdown. Women were significantly more likely to want to cut down than men.

About febfast

febfast is where individuals pause for a cause by giving up alcohol, sugar or another vice of their choice, to support disadvantaged youth in Australia. It is the perfect excuse to kick-start the year with a little good health and good will. Across Australia, thousands of people give up alcohol or sugar for the month of February to raise funds for young people experiencing serious disadvantage to access the resources and support they require to lead healthy and fulfilling lives. Find out more or register at www.febfast.org.au

About YSAS

The Youth Support + Advocacy Service (YSAS) is Australia’s largest, youth-specific community service organisation. Operating since 1998 as Victoria’s flagship Youth Alcohol and Other Drug service, YSAS now employs over 370 skilled staff across 19 sites in metropolitan and regional Victoria. While the prime focus of YSAS remains on effective Youth AOD treatment and sector leadership, the organisation also has extensive experience in providing young people and families with services that support improved mental health and improve meaningful community participation.

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