Worrying number of people drinking alcohol to cope with day to day pressures

New research reveals that almost three in five (58%) of all people (aged 18-75) who drink alcohol are doing so because it helps them to cope with the pressures of day to day life.

According to a new Drinkaware/YouGov survey, which looks at adult drinking patterns in the UK, 38% of men and women who said they had drunk alcohol in the last year had done so to forget their problems at least some of the time. 47% said they had done so to cheer themselves up when in a bad mood.

41% said that they had drunk alcohol because it helps when they feel depressed or nervous, with 54% of these people having done so at increasing levels of risk.

View the full survey findings

The data also reveals that this trend is roughly equal for both men and women and is seen across all age ranges to varying degrees. However, people in lower social grades, who are more likely to be experiencing financial and housing worries[1], are drinking to forget their problems or when they are depressed or nervous, at a significantly higher rate. 

Twenty two year old Joanna Rog, who lives, studies and works in London said:

“Life can often be incredibly stressful for me as I do my best to juggle the demands of living, working and studying in a big city.

“There are some weeks when I drink every day just to keep myself going. I know that it’s not great but there is a release in doing that which helps me to temporarily forget my problems and worries. 

“ Whilst I take some comfort from the fact that I am not the only one who feels this way, that in itself is really worrying.

“Too many people are hitting the bottle when things get rough and we all need to start thinking why we do this and look for other ways of coping with our day to day pressures.”

Commenting, Drinkaware Chief Executive Elaine Hindal said:

 “January can be a difficult time of year for many people and families up and down the country when day to day concerns about finances and debt come sharply into focus.

“What this thought provoking survey shows is that a worrying number of people are drinking alcohol to help them cope with the pressures of day to day life.

“Whilst people might think having a drink after a hard day can help them relax, in the long run it can contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety and make stress harder to deal with. This is because regular, heavy drinking interferes with the neurotransmitters in our brains that are needed for good mental health.

“The number of people who are drinking when they are already feeling depressed or nervous, and at levels which are harmful to both their physical and mental health is also deeply concerning. 

“Regular drinking lowers levels of serotonin – the brain chemical that helps to regulate moods. This is one factor leading to symptoms of depression if people drink heavily and regularly.

“In addition, alcohol and depression can feed off each other to create a vicious cycle.

“Regularly drinking heavily may affect your relationship with your partner, family and friends, or impact on your performance at work, making life feel difficult and depressing. And after a hard day, it can be easy to believe that having a drink will help. 

 “Twenty first century living can be hard but using alcohol to help cope with its pressures, particularly for people who already struggling, for whatever reason, to keep their heads above water is not the solution.

“Finding ways of cutting back and of moderating alcohol consumption are simple changes that can have a significant impact on the quality of people’s lives.  

“Drinkaware is here to help people make these better decisions by providing a wide range of information and support, like the Drinkaware app, which can help people to track and monitor their drinking.

“Our physical and mental health is too important to be taking risks with.”

ENDS

Notes to Editors:

  • For further information please contact the Drinkaware media team on 0207 766 9910
  • Drinkaware is an independent charity. We're here to help people make better choices about drinking by providing impartial, evidence-based information, advice and practical resources
  • YouGov interviewed a representative sample of 6,174 UK adults aged 18-75 online, between 27th March and 18th April 2017. Data has been weighted to be representative of the UK adult population (aged 18-75) according to gender, age, social grade, and region.

The question asked was “The following are reasons that people sometimes give for drinking alcohol. Thinking of all the times you drink, how often would you say that you drink for the following reasons? Please tick the answer of your choice to each question.” The question is in a grid layout where the participant choses whether they drink for each of the reasons either almost never/never, some of the time, half of the time, most of the time or almost always/always. The data presented below is for respondents replying at least ‘some of the time’. The list of reasons given are:

  • Because it helps you enjoy a party
  • Because it helps you when you feel depressed or nervous
  • To cheer you up when you are in a bad mood
  • Because you like the feeling
  • To get a buzz
  • Because it makes social gatherings more fun
  • To fit in with a group you like
  • To forget about your problems
  • Because it is fun
  • To be liked
  • So you won’t feel left out

The questions are part of a validated tool on motivations for drinking DMQ-R SF: Kuntsche, E. & Kuntsche, S. (2009). Development and validation of the Drinking Motive Questionnaire Revised Short Form (DMQ-R SF). Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 38:6, 899-908. 

Coping reasons

Coping reason 1: Drinking to forget about your problems

Coping reason 2: to cheer you up when you’re in a bad mood

Coping reason 3: because it helps when you feel depressed or nervous

Any coping reason

All UK adults (18-75) who ever drink

38%

47%

41%

58%

Social Grade

AB (n= 2010)

33%

44%

36%

55%

C1 (n=1,506)

38%

49%

40%

60%

ABC1 (n=3,516)

36%

46%

38%

58%

C2 (n=839)

38%

47%

43%

59%

DE (n = 1072)

44%

47%

45%

59%

C2DE (n=1,911)

41%

47%

44%

59%

 

 [1] Joseph Rowntree Foundation report on poverty 2017:

“Poverty affects many aspects of people’s lives. Living on a low income reduces the options available for housing, leaving some people more vulnerable to living in poor quality or insecure homes. The social housing systems across the UK play an important part in reducing the link between poor-quality housing and low incomes, and the proportion of those living in poor-quality housing has fallen across the UK. However, those in the poorest fifth of the population are still more likely to live in poor-quality, overcrowded and insecure housing than better-off families. Poverty is also closely linked to health. The stress of struggling to make ends meet affects both physical and mental health.”

Joseph Rowntree Foundation (2017) UK Poverty 2017: a comprehensive analysis of poverty trends and figures, JRF: York. Available at: https://www.jrf.org.uk/report/uk-poverty-2017