Drinking more alcohol during the pandemic? Researchers launch free app to help people reduce their alcohol use

Many people have increased their alcohol consumption during the COVID-19 pandemic, often because they want to relax, are bored, stressed or anxious. However, alcohol use can cause immediate and long-term health harm for the individual, their families, and the community. Moving down Alert levels is the perfect time for New Zealanders to stop and reflect on their alcohol use, and start to make positive changes.

In response to this, researchers at the University of Auckland, Waitemata DHB and University of Alaska Anchorage have launched a free app called ‘Step Away’ to support New Zealanders to reduce their harm from alcohol. The release of the app couldn’t be more timely.

“The app has been designed to help you gain perspective on your drinking and raise awareness of your specific drinking triggers,” says Associate Professor Natalie Walker, Director of the University’s Centre for Addiction Research. “It helps you set a goal - be that stopping drinking altogether or reducing your drinking to safer levels.” The app includes a number of strategies to help people make positive changes in their drinking behaviour, such as providing ways to manage cravings to drink, what to do if you feel distressed or anxious, and how to deal with times when you are at high-risk of drinking.

Unfortunately, few people in New Zealand who drink alcohol at harmful levels report having received help to reduce their alcohol consumption, despite support being available from a number of organisations. Consequently, there remains a significant gap between the population ‘in need’ of help and those receiving help. The ‘Step Away’ App bridges this gap by being immediately ‘at hand’ to offer help.

The ‘Step Away’ app was orginally developed in the USA by Professor Patrick Dulin at the University of Alaska Anchorage, and has been customised for use in New Zealand by the research team, with funding provided by the Health Research Council of New Zealand.

For more information and the link to the app visit https://apps.apple.com/nz/app/step-away-nz-edition/id1489763673

The 'Step Away: NZ Edition' app is free to access and currently only available for iPhone (the android version is still in development).

Step Away