Alcohol adding to lockdown woes of 3.5 million Britons – research

Alcohol is adding to the complications of lockdown for millions of Britons, research finds Credit: Philip Toscano/PA

Problem drinking is exacerbating tension caused by the lockdown for more than 3.5 million British adults, research by an addiction charity has found.

A survey of 2,010 people by Alcohol Change UK found one in 14 people said their own or someone else’s drinking had made stress levels in their household worse since the shutdown began on March 23.

Extrapolating from the data, the charity estimated 3.5 million adults are now living in an environment where alcohol is leading to increased anxiety and conflict.

Households with children fared the worst, with 7% of people with children under 18 reporting alcohol was adding to the tension, while 4% said alcohol was reducing stress.

But elsewhere, Alcohol Change UK also found huge numbers of people taking steps to manage their drinking more carefully during the shutdown.

Of the 1,555 people who were regular drinkers before the shutdown, 35% have reduced their intake or stopped drinking all together, compared to 21% who said they were now drinking more often.

The figures suggest 8.6 million British adults are drinking more since lockdown, while 14 million are drinking less or have stopped entirely based on an estimated UK population of 52 million adults aged 18 and over.

Around 14% of those surveyed reported taking alcohol-free days, 9% said they were keeping an eye on how much alcohol they buy.

A further 4% were seeking advice online to manage their drinking, 3% were attending remote support groups and a further 3% are receiving remote 1-1 counselling.

But it seems the most abstemious Britons are the ones cutting back even further.

Nearly half – or 47% – of people who drank once a week or less have cut down or stopped drinking compared to 27% of people who drank two to six times a week.

Just 17% of daily drinkers are trying to cut back, while 18% of this group have further increased the amount they drink.

Dr Richard Piper, chief executive of Alcohol Change UK, said: “Successive governments have had a blind spot on alcohol harm, but the reality is that it’s the cause of 1.3 million hospital admissions and 10,000 deaths each year.

“This harm is avoidable. Taking action on alcohol harm would reduce rates of domestic violence, child neglect, costs to the criminal justice system and – perhaps most significantly at the moment – would hugely benefit the NHS.”

But he added it was encouraging to see so many people taking steps to manage their drinking.

He urged those struggling to manage their intake to visit the Alcohol Change UK coronavirus information hub for advice and support.