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How alcohol consumption increased in first lockdown

Thursday January 14th 2021

A quarter of adults in the UK drank more alcohol than usual during the first COVID-19 lockdown, with younger women more likely to have increased their consumption, according to a new study today.

UCL, London, UK researchers surveyed more than 30,000 adults about their alcohol consumption between 21 March and 4 April 2020 and found that 34.3% reported that they did not drink alcohol in the period under investigation.

However, of those who said they drank alcohol, 48.1% reported drinking about the same, 26.2% reported drinking more and 25.7% reported drinking less than usual during the surveyed week.

The study, published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence, identified that younger women with post-16 educational qualifications and a household income of £30,000 and over were more likely to report increased alcohol consumption.

Other factors associated with increased alcohol consumption included individuals with an anxiety disorder, those who were under stress finances or those worried about catching or becoming seriously ill from COVID-19.

Lead author, Dr Claire Garnett, of UCL Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care, said: “Despite women being more likely than men to report drinking more than usual during lockdown, heaviness of drinking is still positively associated with being male, which was the case before lockdown.

“Women might be more likely to drink more than usual during lockdown because they have been more negatively affected by the pandemic through increased gender inequalities as women are more likely to lose their jobs and carry the burdens of increased childcare and housework.”

The study found that drinking less than usual during the surveyed week was independently associated with being younger, male, BAME, having a household income lower than £30,000, having been diagnosed with or suspected to have COVID-19, taking on COVID-19 related protective behaviours, feeling stress about becoming ill from the virus and not being a key worker.

Co-author, Dr Melissa Oldham, also of UCL Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care, said: “These findings show that one in four drinkers have reported an increase in their consumption since lockdown began, and that targeted approaches to provide support for certain groups who are more likely to drink more is needed, particularly with the start of this third lockdown.”

Garnett C, Jackson S, Oldham M et al. Factors associated with drinking behaviour during COVID-19 social distancing and lockdown among adults in the UK. Drug and Alcohol Dependence 14 January 2021; doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2020.108461

Tags: Drug & Alcohol Abuse | Flu & Viruses | UK News

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