Targeted action and appropriate support needed for certain groups of the UK population

Date Published

11th June 2021


Mental health


High risk

Actively changing


Last week we published the findings from our most recent research, the latest in a series of surveys that we have been running since the first lockdown in March 2020. This has enabled us to track the Nation’s drinking habits through the pandemic and compare behaviours on a regular basis

Overall, there was an increased polarisation in drinking habits between December 2020 to April 2021, as a higher proportion of UK adults reported drinking either more (20% in April compared to 16% in December) or less (22% in April, compared to 19% in December) than they would have usually prior to the pandemic.

However, from the research, it appears that damaging drinking habits could be becoming ingrained in certain groups, signalling a clear need for targeted action and appropriate support and Drinkaware is therefore calling for alcohol harm to be a public health priority.

Some of the groups emerging from the research include:

Those who have either been made redundant, or are in the process of redundancy

Almost half of UK adults (49%) in this group are drinking more than they usually would have prior to the pandemic. This is more than twice the national average, which stands at 20%, and although this group was a small sample of the overall research, there are concerns that it may grow as the furlough scheme comes to an end. Furthermore, the proportion drinking more has increased since the last survey, rising from 38% in December 2020 to 49% in April 2021.

Those who have been furloughed

Four in ten (39%) of UK adults who have been furloughed from work are drinking more than they usually would have prior to the pandemic, which is almost twice the national average of 20%.

Those drinking at high-risk levels (classified as more than 34 units of alcohol a week for women and more than 50 units for men)

Two thirds (66%) of those currently drinking at high-risk levels are drinking more than they usually would have prior to the pandemic. More than three in ten (31%) of this group reported drinking ‘much more’ compared to 5% of all UK adults.

Those with a child under 18 years of age

Almost one third (33%) of UK parents with a child under 18 are drinking more that they usually would have prior to the pandemic, compared to 13% of parents with adult children and 17% of non-parents. This is also significantly higher than the national average of 20%. Notably, the proportion of this parental group drinking more has increased from 24% to 33% since December 2020 and one in ten (10%) reported drinking much more than they usually would. This is consistent with the 9% who said they were drinking much more in December, suggesting that their habits are becoming ingrained.

Drinkaware is concerned that the proportion of adults drinking more since the start of the pandemic has increased since the last survey in December 2020. That is why we are calling for help and support for people who are drinking more than they were before the first lockdown, to reverse the trend and prevent further alcohol-related harm.

The survey clearly shows differences in drinking habits of certain groups of the UK population, signalling a clear need for targeted action and appropriate support. There is a need for greater priority within public health strategies, but employers also have a crucial role to play in supporting the redundant, furloughed and parents of under 18’s who have been struggling to balance work and family responsibilities.

With recent figures from the Office for National Statistics[1] showing that there were 7,423 deaths from alcohol specific causes in 2020, there must be a focused approach to support those who are at high risk of harm from alcohol. We cannot delay making alcohol harm a public health priority and introducing targeted action and assistance.

Drinkaware has an online self-assessment that can help identify whether someone should be concerned about how much they drink.

Information and advice are also available for employers who want to know how they can help reduce alcohol harm and support employees in the workplace as part of their wellbeing strategy.

[1] Office for National Statistics