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Saturday, July 24, 2021

New project supports middle-aged ACT women to avoid risky alcohol use

A project to discourage “risky levels” of drinking amongst middle-aged ACT women launches this week, run by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) with support from the ACT Government.

Speaking at its announcement yesterday, 30 March, FARE policy and research director Melanie Poole cited an ANU study that found women between the ages of 40 and 65 were using alcohol “significantly more” than they were two to three years ago.

“There’s a range of factors that have influenced that; we know that one really strong indicator of risky alcohol use is when people have childcare duties – so that’s correlated with things like stress and other mental health impacts,” she said.

“We know that women in that age group also drank significantly more during COVID.”

The project, called Ripple, will involve a randomised control trial to test whether an “online intervention” could motivate women in the specified demographic to change their behaviour. 

Today Ripple’s informative website is live, sharing resources and tips to reduce alcohol consumption, with the option for ACT women to sign up to participate in the study.

Drinking no more than two standard drinks on any day and having alcohol-free days is less risky, according to the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

Local general practitioner Dr Anita Hutchison said drinking was known to cause a range of health problems, and she observed her patients who fit the Ripple demographic having difficulty sleeping, waking up tired or anxious, and lacking motivation.

“When you delve into the story behind that, there’s usually a bit of work stress, a bit of anxiety at work,” she said.

“And you come home after a really long day and pour yourself a couple of glasses of wine to try and wind down.”

Dr Hutchison said she helped her patients look for alternative ways to reduce their stress levels, like exercise and relaxation activities.

“If people are unable to stop drinking that’s absolutely fine. But reducing alcohol consumption is something we should all try to do.”

ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith showed full support for the project and encouraged ACT women to visit and share links to the Ripple website.

“Risky drinking has a ripple effect and cutting down on drinking has a positive ripple effect on people’s lives.”

She said the ACT Government was committed to improving the health and wellbeing of the community in an evidence-based way, hence the importance of the randomised control trial, which will be run by the Centre for Alcohol Policy Research.

FARE’s Ms Poole said she described alcohol consumption as ‘use’ rather than ‘drinking’ to draw attention to the fact it was a potentially harmful activity.

“Language that normalises what can be a harmful activity is not conducive to educating people about why it’s important to cut back.

“Drinking is something that everybody does – we drink water, and it’s a critical part of our diet – but alcohol is a harmful substance.”

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