Almost 20 per cent of daily drinkers are consuming more alcohol during the coronavirus lockdown, according to research commissioned by Alcohol Change UK.
However, while more than a fifth of drinkers overall are now drinking more often, one in three are either drinking less frequently or have stopped completely, with the lockdown changing the way people drink ‘at both ends of the scale’.
The survey, of more than 2,000 people, suggests that 14m UK adults are either drinking less often or not at all, while just under 9m are drinking more frequently. Almost 40 per cent of current or past drinkers said they were taking steps to manage their drinking, suggesting ‘an awareness that lockdown might lead us to drink more frequently or heavily and that many are keen to keep their drinking healthy’, the charity says.
People who were already drinking the least are more likely to have reduced their consumption, the survey found – almost half who drank once a week or less have cut down or stopped, compared to 27 per cent of those who drank between two and six times a week and 17 per cent of daily drinkers. ‘Worryingly’, 18 per cent of daily drinkers are now drinking more, it states.
Around 7 per cent of respondents also said they were living in a household where drinking – either their own or someone else’s – had worsened tensions, rising to 14 per cent of those living with children. The figures supported what Adfam had ‘been hearing from families,’ said its chief executive Vivienne Evans. ‘Family and household members are largely unrecognised victims of the harm alcohol can cause; at the best of times they suffer emotional and physical distress, and feel isolated because it’s not easy to own up to having a heavy drinker in the household.’
Just under 10 per cent of the survey’s respondents said they were being ‘careful’ with the amounts of alcohol they bought, 14 per cent were making sure they had drink-free days and 6 per cent were not drinking at all. People were also turning to online support, with 4 per cent seeking advice, 3 per cent accessing remote support groups or receiving one-to-one counselling and 2 per cent using apps to monitor their consumption.
‘This is the most extensive research yet into drinking during lockdown and it shows that this unprecedented period is having a significant impact on the way the UK drinks,’ said Alcohol Change UK chief executive Dr Richard Piper. ‘More than one in five of us are finding ourselves drinking more frequently in lockdown; many of us use alcohol as our go-to stress reliever, and in this very stressful time it’s not surprising that we might find ourselves reaching for a drink more often. But at the same time people across the UK are rising to the challenge by taking steps to manage our drinking. More than a third of us are putting in place ways to keep our drinking in hand, ranging from taking drink-free days to using online support groups. We want to come out of lockdown as mentally and physically healthy as we possibly can, and managing our drinking is an important part of that.’
The lockdown period would be difficult for many dependent drinkers and those in recovery, added chair of Alcohol Health Alliance UK, Professor Sir Ian Gilmore. ‘If you are concerned about your drinking or the alcohol consumption of someone you know, make sure you reach out for help.’