Alcohol and men: The unhealthy habits affecting mental health
Australia has developed a drinking culture that plays a central role in many of our social lives. But for some - especially men - drinking rituals can lead to unhealthy habits that can impact our mental health.
On average over the last two decades, the rate of alcohol-induced deaths for males has been 3.5 times higher than that of females. And Australian men are three times more likely to die from suicide in which alcohol is a related factor.
Alcohol kills almost twice as many men as women in Australia with both short-term and long-term effects such as road accidents and chronic mental health issues, respectively. Here are some ways in which you can support the mental health of the men in your life.
Do you use alcohol as a coping mechanism?
For many people, alcohol can be used as a coping mechanism, even though it may amplify their mood only temporarily. One of the reasons people drink alcohol is to feel better when they’re experiencing depression or anxiety, in an attempt to sleep or to avoid the problem.
Headspace National Youth Mental Health Foundation reported that the social pressure to drink alcohol from friends and family members is higher among young men in Australia, putting them at greater risk of addiction and behavioural problems.
And although there’s no significant difference between male and female experiences of mental health conditions, it’s important to know that with one in eight Australian men experiencing depression in their lifetime, only 40% of affected men access the mental health services available to them.
Why can people develop unhealthy drinking habits?
When thinking about mental health, it’s helpful to acknowledge the underlying factors that contribute to our drinking habits. Issues such as unemployment, underemployment, socio-economic status, relationship breakdowns and discrimination can play a key role in increased alcohol consumption.
Recent reports of alcohol consumption during the COVID-19 social distancing restrictions show very high levels of alcohol consumption (28% more than usual) among all Australians as they cope with anxiety, negativity, stress and a rapidly changing situation.
How to support the men in our lives
Evidence suggests that people with a higher level of social support and community participation in activities like group sport live healthier lives because they have access to basic health information and moral support to seek help. According to Dr Neil Hall, director of the Men’s Health Information and Resource Centre, many men are experiencing heightened stress due to isolation and unemployment, and now more than ever we need to work together to encourage good mental health and wellbeing.
“We’re asking people to check in with the men in their lives – pick up the phone, send a text or get together online – to start an important conversation, and to share vital support and health information,” said Dr Hall.
Where to find expert help
If you’re concerned about your mental health and wellbeing, you can:
If you’d like to change your relationship with alcohol, find out more about HCF’s partner, Hello Sunday Morning and download Daybreak, the alcohol behaviour change app that’s free and comes with added benefits and programs for HCF members.
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