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Australian drinking habits | body+soul

Thanks to alcohol-free or more health-conscious options, young Australians are drinking less of the ‘big three’ than ever before, according to new research. Here’s why the shift has more to do with just a preference in taste. 

Any Aussie will tell you how engrained drinking is in our culture. We cheers the happy union of couples, in memory of loved ones, and even our victorious (or defeated) sports teams. In fact, you’ll probably hear the crack of a beer can anytime the sun comes out, which is a weather phenomenon our country is hardly unfamiliar with. 

But now, a new national survey conducted by Bupa has revealed a startling shift in the drinking habits of young Australians aged 18 to 29, with many substantially cutting back their alcohol consumption. 

The findings from the survey not only demonstrate the decline in popularity of more traditional alcoholic beverages, such as beer, wine and spirits, but also the noticeable rise of low-sugar and low-calorie options. Hard seltzers, carbonated water-based drinks that can be infused with a variety o

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The shift in drinking habits reflects the changing attitudes within emerging generations, with young people reexamining the role alcohol plays in their social lives and long-term health.

“We know that having a drink can be part of a social lifestyle and there’s evidence that shows moderate consumption is associated with feelings of wellbeing for some people, particularly in social contexts,” Dr Andre Rodrigues, a representative for the study, says.

 “However, what we also know is that excessive alcohol consumption is directly linked to short-term risk, such as accident and injury, and long-term risk of chronic illness and disease.”

So why are Aussies ditching the ‘big three’ (beer, wine and spirits)? One of Australia’s greatest IronMen, Matt Poole, shares why he’s changed up his drink order. 

Like most Aussie blokes, Poole has always enjoyed having a few drinks with friends, but until his retirement from his professional training two years ago, the demands of his IronMan career had an immense impact on how he was able to socialise in comparison to his friends and family. 

“There were intense periods throughout the year where my whole life would be devoted to training for IronMan competitions,” explains Poole.

“Training for an Ironman can be very lonely, as you pretty much are training or doing recovery most of the day. Additionally, going out can be tough as you have mates who want you to have a drink with them, but you know it will hinder your ability to train properly the next day.” 

Since retiring, the pro athlete has been able to enjoy a few more drinks without worrying about the impact they may have on his training. But even so, with age, a continued passion for fitness, and his new role as a father, Poole says he now mainly sticks to seltzers, finding the natural ingredients and low sugar content won’t render him useless the next day. 

“I am still very active and I now have a young daughter so I don’t have time for hangovers,” says Poole. “Now I know if I just have one or two Gravity Seltzers I will be fine because the low sugar leaves me feeling better.”

“The fact that there is a non-alcoholic option for when I am training for something is awesome too,” adds the IronMan of 15 years, who has now taken on a new role as Gravity Seltzer co-owner.

But while his career as a professional athlete may have taken a backseat in recent years, Poole says his updated drinking habits are also influenced by his role as a father, having welcomed his first daughter Posy just over a year ago. 

It’s probably a necessary step in the right direction. “Alcohol is so ingrained in our society socially, which is fine, but it can really get out of hand,” says Pool. “Now that more people seem interested in changing their drinking habits and choosing lighter options, I think it will do a lot for the health of Australians, both physically and mentally.”

But it’s not just IronMen swapping out their pints for healthier alternatives. According to Dr Dinesh Silva, Principal General Practitioner and Director at Curvz, the rise in ‘better for you’ alcoholic beverages reflects an increase in awareness of the impact of our health choices.  

“As a society, we are becoming increasingly health-conscious and this has not gone unnoticed by the beverage companies who are investing in healthier options for both non-drinkers, who may previously have been left out from social drinks and drinkers looking to enjoy drinking responsibly without compromising their health goals,” Dr Silva says. 

The GP says more health-conscious drinks tend to have lower sugar content compared to traditional alcoholic beverages, potentially helping reduce the risks of diabetes and obesity. 

Heading into the holiday season, it can feel like an endless cycle of office drinks, Christmas parties and family catch-ups, each involving a limitless flow of bubbles. So this year, head into the silly season with a more health-conscious approach, filling your cup with a low-sugar or alcohol-free option.

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