Alcohol & Breast Cancer Don’t Mix: So Why Are Australian Women Drinking More?

11 Jun 2020 by Pink Hope Team
Alcohol & Breast Cancer Don’t Mix: So Why Are Australian Women Drinking More?

With the arrival of COVID-19 and its subsequent stresses, never before have we been more likely to turn to alcohol as a way to unwind and de-stress during such a period of unprecedented uncertainty.

Guiltily, I’ve reached for the bottle on more than one occasion, after a stressful day of home-schooling, working, and adulting. So it’s not surprising then, that a new study from the Australian National University has shown that it’s us, women, who are most drawn to the booze to unwind after a stressful day as we struggle with the scare factor of Corona Virus, in addition to the usual day-to-day stress of work, life and family juggles.

The study revealed that almost 20 per cent of people drank more under lockdown than they usually did, with almost one third of those people admitting to increasing their drinking by three to four more drinks per week.  Meanwhile, 26.4 per cent said they had upped their intake by more than five drinks per week. What we know is that people generally under-report their drinking.

So why are we doing it?

According to the study, as women, we are 1.3 times more likely to increase our drinking than men, particularly women aged 35 to 44 who have a university degree, with data revealing that those who already drank three or more days a week, were more likely to drink to cope with the added pressure of COVID-19.

The main reason noted for increased amounts of alcohol was due to not being able to go anywhere where alcohol was not easily accessible, (e.g. at the office). Stress and anxiety related to COVID-19 were the second biggest driver for women to reach for the bottle, compared to men, who revealed that boredom brought on by a job loss influenced their decision to increase their alcohol intake.

The research also suggested that women began drinking more as the result of imbalances in caregiving.

The number of Australian women, whose main role is to provide care, rose at the start of 2020 (from 18.6 per cent to 20.9) and by May, almost a third of those women said they were consuming more alcohol than before.

Why we need to be mindful of our alcohol consumption

While the impacts of alcohol are broad sweeping, including heart and liver damage, addiction, thinning bones, infertility, and much more, the impact of alcohol can also play a significant role in increasing your risk of developing breast cancer.

With more than 100 studies confirming this fact, it is believed that increased alcohol consumption is the cause of between 5-11% of all breast cancer cases.

Alcohol impacts your risks by limiting your livers ability to control levels of oestrogen in your blood, as well as damaging your DNA in your cells, subsequently increasing your risk.

When you consider that in 2019, breast cancer was the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia, with around 19,535 women expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer this year alone. That’s a whopping 53 individuals every single day, with up to five of these women’s diagnosis statistically speaking, directly linked to their alcohol consumption.

How can I reduce stress in other ways?

There are many other ways to alleviate stress that doesn’t involve alcohol consumption, and finding healthy outlets such as exercise, journaling, and quality time with family and friends are just some simple steps you can take to navigate your way through this difficult time.

But of course, we know that it isn’t always as easy as telling yourself ‘no’, and if alcohol consumption is something you are struggling with, we would highly recommend you seek the assistance of your GP and get in touch with Lifeline (13 11 14).


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