A GROUP of Hunter women have shared their experiences with alcohol and how their attitudes towards it have changed in Shaun Micallef's On The Sauce series on the ABC.
Dr Sally Hunt, a clinical psychologist and alcohol researcher at the University of Newcastle, joined comedian and TV presenter Shaun Micallef to talk to members of a Newcastle book club about how they have used alcohol in the past, and how they use it now.
It was the second episode of a three-part documentary series about Australia's drinking culture.
Dr Hunt hopes it encourages viewers to think about their own alcohol use in an "evaluative" way.
"For some people, it's not a problem, and they are right to have one or two drinks here and there," she said.
"But we know there are a lot of people out there who use alcohol as a coping strategy because they don't know they have alternatives, and some who don't realise they are actually using it as a coping strategy. I hope this helps people to weigh up the pros and cons without wagging the finger."
Dr Hunt said the episode was filmed before the COVID-19 pandemic - a time when isolation, boredom and stress contributed to people increasing their alcohol consumption.
"We know that anyone who went through that period and attempted to home-school, run a household, or care for vulnerable members of their families, or who juggled work and stress have all been under a burden - you could even call it a trauma - and we're still in it and still coping the best we can," she said. "Now is not the time to blame ourselves for how we are coping - it's a credit to us all that we are - but a lot of people reported during that period of isolation they did increase their alcohol consumption."
Dr Hunt said preliminary data coming out of ANU showed there was a larger self-reported increase in alcohol consumption for females to males, and that having a child caring role was a strong predictor of an increase in alcohol consumption for women.
"For males, the loss of job or a decline in work hours was the strongest predictor for them," Dr Hunt said.
"We can't change the stresses in our lives. Things will happen to us that are outside our control - the pandemic is a perfect example of that - but what we can control is how we respond to the events.
"It's the drinking as a coping strategy that I'm particularly interested in targeting."
Dr Hunt said people needed to look after themselves and their health.
She believes it is time for an education campaign - much like Life. Be In It or Quit For Life - that focuses on alcohol use, particularly as the pandemic continues.
"This is no longer a sprint, it's a marathon," Dr Hunt said. "The holiday is over, and this is our new normal - at least for the foreseeable future. So we need to take some steps to keep our bodies and our minds healthy."
Shaun Micallef's On The Sauce is on at 8.30pm Tuesdays on ABC and iview.
Dr Hunt's team is conducting a survey on parenting, alcohol and other lifestyle factors. It is open to any Australian resident with a child aged one month to 18 years.
To participate, click here.
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