Drinkaware warns lockdown level drinking could have lasting impact as research reveals worrying drinking trends

Lockdown and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic could have a lasting impact on drinking levels – and therefore devastating health consequences – for many people if action is not taken, warns charity Drinkaware.

New research from independent alcohol education charity, Drinkaware, reveals that around two in five (38%) of people on furlough and a third (33%) of parents with at least one child under 18 are drinking more alcohol since the start of lockdown.

This is significantly higher than the national average where, overall, more than a fifth (22%) of people in the UK – around 11.7 million – are drinking more since the lockdown began.  

The study, conducted by Opinium on behalf of Drinkaware, surveyed more than 2,000 people in the UK and is the latest in the charity’s research series into drinking behaviours. It also highlights that around three in ten young adults aged 18 to 34 (29%) are drinking at higher levels than when lockdown began.

One of the top three reasons young adults give for drinking more is that they are feeling anxious. Among UK adults who drink younger generations are also more likely than the national average to be drinking alone when they wouldn’t usually.

Among UK adults who drink, parents with at least one child under 18 are more likely than the national average to have had their first alcoholic drink earlier in the day, as well as drinking to cope with the day. Furloughed workers are more likely than the national average to be drinking on more days than usual and say they find it difficult to stop at just one drink.

Drinkaware is urging people to look out for drinking triggers to help them cut back and is calling on government to raise alcohol consumption higher up its harm reduction agenda.

Drinkaware Chief Executive Elaine Hindal said: “At a time when adopting a healthy lifestyle has never been more important, our latest research clearly shows certain groups of people are displaying worrying new drinking patterns during this very challenging time.

“We’re concerned that, for a significant number of people, lockdown levels of drinking may become ingrained and hard to break. Drinking more, whether out of boredom or anxiety, can lead to devastating health consequences, both mental and physical, as well as an increased tolerance for alcohol, which can lead to alcohol dependence.”

The data reveals that those who are drinking more are also more likely than the national average to display worrying drinking habits – drinking on more days than usual, having the first alcoholic drink earlier in the day, drinking alone, finding it difficult to stop at one drink or drinking to cope with the day – which could suggest possible alcohol dependence and have long-term implications for health.

Elaine Hindal added: “It is crucial that alcohol is considered as a factor when the government is looking at tackling obesity. Alcohol consumption should also be looked at as a critical factor within mental health strategies, including for those furloughed by their employers and younger adults who may feel uncertain about the future, and for parents who are juggling work and family life.

“The important thing to remember is that, if you or someone you care about is drinking more than usual at the moment, it’s not too late to cut down or find support to help you. Understanding what triggers you to drink more can help you avoid reaching for alcohol. Sticking to the low risk drinking guidelines of no more than 14 units a week – that’s about six glasses of wine or six pints of beer – is a good place to start to help you keep track.”

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

ENDS

Notes to editor

Opinium conducted the research on behalf of Drinkaware, surveying 2,001 nationally representative UK adults aged 18 and over from the 3 to 7 July 2020. Data highlights are below.

NATIONAL AVERAGE:

In United Kingdom 22% of people are drinking more since the lockdown began; this equates to around 11.7 Million people over the age of 18. (15% or around 8 million people over the age of 18 are drinking less)

When asked why:

  • Top three reasons are because people are bored (29%), they have more time to drink (28%) and they’re spending more time drinking with partners/people in their household (24%)

PARENTS:

33% of parents with at least one child under the age of 18 are drinking more since lockdown began. (National average: 22%; parents with at least one child over 18: 17%; or non-parents: 19%).

When asked why:

  • Top three reasons are because people are bored (30%), they have more time to drink (25%) and they’re spending more time drinking with partners/people in their household (24%)

When parents who have at least one child under the age of 18 and drink were asked if they’d experienced any of the following since lockdown began in terms of alcohol drinking habits:

  • 17% are drinking on more days than usual (compared with the national average 16%)
  • 13% have had their first alcoholic drink earlier in the day (compared with the national average 10%)
  • 10% are drinking alone when they wouldn’t usually (compared with the national average 8%)
  • 9% find it difficult to stop at one (compared with the national average 8%)
  • 13% are drinking to cope with the day (compared with the national average 8%)
  • 14% have to drink more to get the same effect (compared with the national average 7%)

PEOPLE ON FURLOUGH

38% of people who are on furlough due to Covid-19 are drinking more since the lockdown began, compared with a national average of 22%.

When asked why:

  • Top three reasons are because people are bored (27%), they have more time to drink (23%) and they’re spending more time drinking with partners/people in their household (21%)

When those on furlough who drink were asked if they’d experienced any of the following since lockdown began in terms of alcohol drinking habits:

  • 22% are drinking on more days a week than usual (compared with the national average 16%)
  • 15% have had their first alcoholic drink earlier in the day (compared with the national average 10%)
  • 12% are drinking alone when they wouldn’t usually (compared with the national average 8%)
  • 14% find it difficult to stop at one (compared with the national average 8%)
  • 14% are drinking to cope with the day (compared with the national average 8%)
  • 9% have to drink more to get the same effect (compared with the national average 7%)

YOUNG ADULTS:

29% of people aged 18-34 are drinking more since lockdown began, compared with a national average of 22% (and compared with 25% of those aged 35-54 and 15% of those aged 55+)

When asked why:

  • Top three reasons are because they are more bored (29%), they have more time to drink (24%) and they are feeling anxious (23%).

When those aged 18-34 who drink were asked if they’d experienced any of the following since lockdown began in terms of alcohol drinking habits:

  • 17% are drinking on more days than usual (compared with the national average 16%)
  • 16% have had their first alcoholic drink earlier in the day (compared with the national average 10%)
  • 15% are drinking alone when they wouldn’t usually (compared with the national average 8%)
  • 9% find it difficult to stop at one (compared with the national average 8%)
  • 12% are drinking to cope with the day (compared with the national average 8%)
  • 16% have to drink more to get the same effect (compared with the national average 7%)

PEOPLE WHO ARE DRINKING MORE SINCE THE START OF LOCKDOWN

When asked if they’d experienced any of the following since lockdown began in terms of alcohol drinking habits, those who answered ‘I am drinking a bit/much more’ answered as follows:

  • 38% are drinking on more days than usual (compared with the national average 16%)
  • 19% have had their first alcoholic drink earlier in the day (compared with the national average 10%)
  • 15% are drinking alone when they wouldn’t usually (compared with the national average 8%)
  • 17% find it difficult to stop at one (compared with the national average 8%)
  • 17% are drinking to cope with the day (compared with the national average 8%)
  • 11% have to drink more to get the same effect (compared with the national average 7%)

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