Are we looking for an excuse to say no?

I know I’m not alone in noticing how there are now a number of “alcohol-free months” being promoted to raise funds for charitable institutions. VicHealth noted this in their January 2012 report Evaluation of the impact of febfast participation: a summary report. There are at least 3 months of the year now that are linked to an alcohol-free campaign. febfastDry July, and Ocsober are all examples of these types of campaigns.

Hello Sunday Morning is another campaign that encourages people to sign up to give up alcohol for a period of time. It varies from those listed above as it encourages particpants to blog about their experience and is not linked to raising funds.

The intention of the first three campaigns is around sacrificing or giving up something all for the aid of charity, however it does provide people with a great opportunity to look at the role alcohol plays in their lives (as well as raise money for their cause of choice). The reported numbers of people signing up to participate in campaigns such as those listed above are growing. VicHealth’s report looked at what motivated people to sign up for febfast. (In the spirit of full disclosure the Australian Drug Foundation is a recipient of funds that are raised by febfast particpipants.) According to the report personal and health benefits were the main drivers behind people signing up to particpate in febfast.

The results also indicated that people’s expectations were met with a range of key health and person benefits reported and over two-thirds of those surveyed 2011 febfast participants planning to do it again in 2012.

It is great to see that all the awareness and education campaigns are raising individual and community awareness of the harmful effects of excessive alcohol and encouraging people to look at their own behaviour. The 2012 Annual alcohol poll: attitudes and behaviors [PDF: 1.12MB] by the Foundation for Alcohol Research & Education (FARE) reported that:

  • 30% of Australians considered alcohol as the most harmful drug.
  • 17% thought alcohol as the biggest threat to health.
  • 76% believe that Australia has a problem with excess drinking or alcohol abuse.

However, we still have some work to do to change Australia’s attitude towards people’s choices whether to drink or not with the majority of the VicHealth survey respondents reporting that:

  • it was easier to have a break from alcohol by doing febfast than on their own.
  • their choice not to drink was commented on by others.
  • they felt they had to explain their decision not to drink.

So it looks like another benefit of these types of campaigns is that it provides people with an excuse to say no.

Cindy Van Rooy
(Program Manager)