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In July 2008, three mates, Brett, Kenny and Phil, wanted to take a break from alcohol, so decided to abstain for the month of July, coining it their ‘Dry July’. They also wanted to raise money for a cause very close to their hearts, so they asked friends and family to sponsor them.

Hoping to raise $3,000 to buy a TV for their local hospital’s waiting room, the campaign was a huge success. The first Dry July ended up raising $250,000, thanks to the support of Adam Spencer, and Dry July was well and truly born! Since 2008, Dry July has inspired more than 200,000 Aussies to go dry, raising $49 million for people affected by cancer, and funding projects at more than 80 cancer organisations across Australia. [1]

However, this year in 2020, there is an option to go Dry(ish) by choosing 21 or 14 dry days rather than all 31 and I wonder if this is to allow for the increased consumption of alcohol by Australians since the start of Covid-19?

Data from around the time the coronavirus lockdown started from Commbank shows alcohol sales in supermarkets grew by 20%, while alcohol sales in bottle shops grew by a whopping 36.8% during the first few weeks of lockdown.  This corresponded with a 6% drop in spending on alcohol served at pubs and hotels, as venues across the country started to close their doors. [2]

According to Professor Rob Moodie and Dr Tasmyn Soller of the University of Melbourne, our country has a long and often troubled relationship with alcohol, and COVID-19 isolation has the potential to bring out the worst of our national battle with the bottle.

The past two months have seen our society altered in the broadest, fastest and most profound way since World War II. Australians have had to self-isolate and radically change our way of life.

While strict social distancing remains in force, many have had to contend with lost job security and increased worry about loved ones and our own physical and mental health. So, it’s important to reflect on how and why this may affect our alcohol intake and its ramifications for our nation.

COVID-19 unleashes a new array of challenges for Australia. While anxiety and stress associated with it is to be expected, managing these reactions can be extremely challenging. Alcohol use and misuse are too entwined in our nation’s history particularly in times of crisis but it remains to be seen what the long-term impact of COVID-19 on alcohol consumption will be.

While wine companies predict that the shift to online purchasing and at home consumption will stick around in the medium term, clinicians and public health professionals worry that the changed pattern of drinking could become a habit for many people.

What I was thinking is that 200,000 people since 2008 who have enrolled in Dry July is not a huge number compared to the 6,000,000 plus who have downloaded the Covid-19 App. Imagine if every single person who has downloaded the App donated $1 for every drink they didn’t buy in July – now that would something to tell our kids and grannies into the future.

[1] https://www.dryjuly.com/

[2] https://www.crikey.com.au/2020/05/15/alcohol-consumption-in-australia-alcohol-sales-coronavirus/

[3] https://pursuit.unimelb.edu.au/articles/australia-s-covid-19-relationship-with-booze