Our 2020 Monitor (and other surveys we conducted in 2020), identified distinct changes in the nation’s drinking habits since the pandemic.
- There was a polarisation in drinking habits, with similar proportions of UK drinkers reporting drinking more than they would usually prior to the pandemic and less than they would usually.
- Population level data (e.g., on alcohol units consumed or alcohol risk classification based on the AUDIT-C) remained largely unchanged from previous years.
- However, population level statistics masked significant variation within groups. We did not see small increases in alcohol consumption across the board. Rather, larger increases among a smaller proportion of high-risk drinkers (i.e., those considered to be most at risk of alcohol-related harm).
- This has significant health and resource implications. Indeed, alcohol-specific deaths increased by almost 20% in England and Wales in 2020 compared to the previous year—and increased by 17% in Scotland.
In addition to high-risk drinkers, Drinkaware identified three other groups who reported drinking more than usual during the pandemic: individuals facing redundancy, individuals whose mental health had been negatively impacted by the pandemic, and parents of children under 18.
A common thread among those who reported drinking more than usual was mentioning coping motivations for drinking alcohol (such as ‘to cheer up when in a bad mood’, ‘to forget about problems’ and ‘to help when feeling depressed or nervous’).