A quarter of drinkers consuming more during lockdown

More than a quarter of people who have ever drunk alcohol think they have been drinking more during lockdown, according to research commissioned by Alcohol Change UK. Almost half said they expected to continue drinking at the same rate as the lockdown eases and pubs reopen, while 17 per cent said they anticipated drinking more.  

Richard Piper: ‘We were right to worry’ about the impact of lockdown on people’s drinking.

The figures are based on a survey of more than 2,000 people, around 1,600 of whom were current or former drinkers. Just under 20 per cent of this group said they had been drinking to cope with stress or anxiety, with parents of under-18s more likely to cite this as a reason than non-parents or parents of adult children. Although one in five drinkers had been drinking more often, the number of units consumed on an average drinking day ‘does not seem to have changed significantly’, says the charity, with 13 per cent drinking more units and 12 per cent drinking fewer. Of people who typically drank seven or more units a day, however, 38 per cent said they were now drinking more.

Just under 20 per cent of drinkers said they intended to visit a pub within two weeks of lockdown easing, but 7 per cent had stopped drinking altogether during the lockdown –equating to more than 3m people – with younger people more likely to have cut out alcohol. More than one in three people had also been taking ‘active steps’ to manage their alcohol consumption, including having alcohol-free days or looking for advice online. Traffic to the ‘get help’ section of Alcohol Change UK’s website from March to June was almost 250 per cent higher than during the same period last year, the charity says.

‘From the very start of lockdown, charities and treatment services have warned of the impact on people’s drinking,’ said chief executive Richard Piper. ‘This research shows that we were right to worry. One in five of us has drunk more often than usual over the past three months, and this research suggests that those drinking more often during lockdown are less likely than others to cut back as it eases. But the good news is that one in three of us are acknowledging that drinking is a concern and taking active steps to manage our drinking during lockdown. One in three are also planning to manage our drinking actively as the pubs reopen and lockdown eases, putting in place plans like drink-free days, keeping an eye on the amount of alcohol we buy, and getting support online or from our GPs.’