A good time to reassess health goals

The 2021 festive holidays mark the end of another year of upheaval and change for most people in Australia and around the world. The challenges of COVID-19 restrictions have impacted our schools, homes, workplaces, hospitals, shopping centres, travel, and holidays, at the very least.

Adapting to pandemic related change has been needed to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and manage its health impacts. This includes changes to the way we exercise, our diet and how we socialise. The prolonged global crisis has also prompted some people to reset health and life goals. As we look to the future, there is a growing realisation that our health goals need to align with public health requirements to live with COVID-19 and its variants.

For Queensland families, the holidays often signify a time for reconnection, celebration, time off work, rest, backyard sport, days at the beach, catching up on movies, playing games and spending extra time on devices and social media. They also spark change in our daily routines and rituals. Everyday activities around mealtimes, alcohol consumption, physical activity and rest can be less structured. Setting aside time to consider your health and well-being, and that of your loved ones and community, may help you navigate the silly season and begin 2022 with healthier outcomes.

A good place to start is thinking about alcohol consumption. Emerging studies show an increase in alcohol consumption over the past two years can be attributed in part to COVID-19 restrictions, such as lockdowns. An increase in domestic violence has also been found to coincide with the pandemic. Whilst alcohol may not be the cause of domestic abuse, studies show alcohol consumption is a compounding factor in most domestic abuse cases.

The 2020 revised Australian guidelines for alcohol consumption aim to reduce health risks associated with drinking. They include:

Guideline 1: Reducing the risk of alcohol-related harm for adults

To reduce the risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury, healthy men and women should drink no more than 10 standard drinks a week and no more than 4 standard drinks in a day.

Guideline 2: Children and people under 18 years of age

To reduce the risk of harm and injury, people under 18 years old should not drink alcohol.

Guideline 3: Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding

To prevent harm to unborn children, women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy should not drink alcohol. For breastfeeding mothers, abstaining from alcohol is the safest option for their baby.

To assist in staying healthy over the holidays, the following tips may be of help:

Hydrate! In summer, it’s essential to replace fluids lost through sweat, especially when participating in activities such as exercise, sport, swimming, washing the car, shopping or doing housework. Have a glass of water before, during and after each activity and top up regularly at meal times or when you feel thirsty. You may need to drink more water than usual if you notice your urine is darker than normal.

  • Swap alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic alternatives
  • Avoid soft drinks and try a fruit mocktail or healthy frappe instead
  • If you are having an alcoholic drink, pace yourself by having a glass of water between drinks, add ice, have half a nip instead of full nip, choose a light beer instead of full-strength beer, and
  • Have something to eat when consuming alcohol

You can learn more about the revised alcohol guidelines on the NHMRC website or read more general information the Queensland Department of Health website.

For free and confidential advice about alcohol and other drugs, call the National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline on 1800 250 015.

Dr Suzie Harte is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow with the UQ Child Health Research Centre.


For more stories from across the Faculty of Medicine, visit MayneStream, our content hub.