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Victorians let loose after pandemic restrictions lifted, with more than half eating unhealthy foods and one in three drinking even more than during lockdowns

A recent survey of 500 Victorians following the latest COVID-19 lockdown restrictions and festive season has revealed half gained weight in 2021 and close to, one in three (28%) drank more alcohol after lockdown restrictions eased.

The febfast survey conducted by YSAS in January 2022 via an online Ipsos panel, has revealed that while a third of survey takers reported binge drinking and unhealthy eating during Victoria’s extended lockdowns in 2021, they boozed and ate sugary and fatty foods even more after the latest pandemic lockdowns ended.

Around 60% of survey takers said they’d gained weight, with a whopping majority (79%) expressing their desire to cut sugar out of their diet in 2022 after eating even more sugar and fatty during lockdown-free periods and the festive season.

While half of Victorians want to drink less alcohol in the new year, men aged 18-34 living in Metropolitan Melbourne were most likely to binge as a result of pandemic stress.

More than half of young Victorians (18-34) surveyed also did something they regretted or drank to the point of blackout as a result of extended and heightened binge drinking behaviour.

It’s unsurprising that Melbournians, who live in the world’s most locked down city have let loose after two years of pandemic restrictions and indulged in Christmas, and New Year’s celebrations.

Survey findings shine a light on a state-wide trend of increased alcohol and unhealthy food consumption during 2021 ahead of the annual febfast campaign next week, providing motivation for anyone wanting to kick-start the new year with healthier habits.

“Febfast gives every Australian the chance to put a pause on sugar or alcohol to save money, improve their own health and support a worthy cause” CEO of YSAS, Andrew Bruun said.

“For almost two years, the pandemic has disrupted the development of Victoria’s young people and affected all Victorians profoundly. These disruptions in our everyday lives pushed many to binge drinking and eating our way through the pandemic.”

“This survey puts our unhealthy choices in the spotlight, but also makes it clear just how many Victorians want to put their alcohol and sugar binge behind them.

“The good news is that with the right blend of opportunity and resources everyone can become more resilient and start a new healthier path.

“The best thing about febfast is the opportunity and time to take stock of the habits and behaviours you’d like to change, and kick-start the year right.

“With a community of thousands of other febfaster’s taking the challenge alongside you from all over Australia, and plenty of tips and tools during your febfast, you can hit pause on anything whether it’s fast food, drinking alcohol or something else.”

“Benefits like better sleep, saving money and getting fit speak for themselves. I encourage all Australians to pause for a cause this February and sign up to the febfast challenge.”

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 have only been exacerbated by the pandemic.

Individuals can sign up and ask friends and family to sponsor their journey to take on healthier habits for a month and businesses can sign up their teams to take the challenge together.

Register here: www.febfast.org.au

Key findings from the poll of 500 Victorians about their pandemic and post-lockdown 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 three in metropolitan Melbourne. The 18-34 group were more likely to drink heavily during lockdown (one in three) and men more likely than women to answer yes to this question (33% male versus 24% female).

· More than one in three surveyed said they drank more alcohol than usual in 2020, particularly those in metropolitan Melbourne (37% answered yes to this question).

· For those who drank more alcohol during lockdown, three-quarters (78%) 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 (31%).

· Almost half said they wanted to reduce the frequency and volume of their alcohol consumption in 2022.

Unhealthy eating

· Half of survey takers said they ate more unhealthy food after Victoria’s pandemic lockdown restrictions lifted, two-thirds of young people aged 18-34 agreed. Women were more likely to have eaten sugary and fatty foods as pandemic restrictions eased.

· Almost 60% of survey takers said they gained weight during the pandemic, 64% among women.

· Of those who gained weight, 42% 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: 12% of women surveyed said they gained more than 10 kilograms, opposed to 9% of men.

· A vast majority of survey takers (79%) said they wished to cut down on sugar in 2022. The 18-34 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 (AOD) service, YSAS now employs over 400 skilled staff across 19 sites in metropolitan and regional Victoria. While YSAS continues to provide effective Youth AOD services, the organisation also has extensive experience in providing young people and families with services that support improved mental health and meaningful community participation.

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