Alcoholic liver disease has increased in women by 30% over the last year in the US. Is the same happening here in Australia?
Dr Sarah Callinan from the Centre for Alcohol Policy from Latrobe University says alcohol consumption isn’t shifting much in Australia.
“What we’ve been finding is that overall, if anything, it’s actually been shifting down a little, but we think that’s hiding some movement within individuals, like that population trend isn’t the whole story,” she says.
Dr Callinan says she thinks younger people’s drinking habits are tied to socialising outside of their homes.
“Young people in particular, decreased their consumption a lot during lockdown,” she says.
“But for older drinkers, it does sort of look like they were either sort of staying the same or drinking a bit more especially those in quite stressful situations and also because of boredom.”
National Drug Research Institute Professor Steve Allsop says different demographics have varied in whether they drank more or less alcohol in the last year.
“If you were someone who largely drank when you went out to the nightclubs, and the restaurants and the hotels, and you couldn’t go to those places, then you may have cut back your consumption,” he says.
“Some people were concerned about their health… had less money to spend. Whereas other people – they were anxious, they were bored, with more time on their hands.
“There’s some evidence that some women did drink more, but again, I don’t think we can actually apply this across the board.”
Dr Callinan says women in particular have been put under extraordinarily high levels of stress during lockdown, with many women juggling multiple roles.
“If you’re working from home, and you’re trying to look after small children, homeschool older children, it is an extremely stressful situation,” she says.
Dr Callinan says any higher incidence of liver disease could possibly be due to biological differences rather than consumption, as men consume significantly more alcohol than women.
Professor Allsop says the same amount of alcohol can have a more significant effect on women.
“That’s simply a case of, if a man and a woman drink the same amount of alcohol, nine times out of 10, the woman’s blood alcohol level will be higher,” he says.
“So as a consequence of higher blood alcohol levels, there’s a whole range of risks that can arise from problems to do with intoxication, injuries, and so on.”