Alcohol and COVID
“I’ve had a long day. I need a drink”. We’ve all heard it or maybe said it ourselves.
We often drink more during stressful periods and the impact of the pandemic has meant that our normal routines have been disrupted. For some this has led to increased alcohol consumption.
For many people, their drinking habits are purely social, getting together with friends in pubs and restaurants. Or maybe they drink moderately within healthy limits. Some have kept to those rules, consuming very little during the pandemic but others have resorted to increased drinking at home.
And for those frontline staff, who’ve been putting their own lives at risk to support others, those stressful days have been longer, more frequent and harder than ever before.
The impact of the pandemic on alcohol consumption
In July 2021 Public Health England (PHE) published a report on alcohol consumption and alcohol-related harm in England throughout the coronavirus (COVID-19).
Data from a consumer purchasing panel that measures off-trade volume sales of alcohol showed that between 2019 and 2020 (before and during the pandemic), volume sales increased by 25.0%. This increase was consistent and sustained for most of 2020.
As the pandemic took hold alcohol related hospital admissions decreased as people avoided hospitals to ease pressure on the NHS. It is also likely that people thought hospitals were high-risk settings for catching COVID-19, and were also concerned about leaving the house.
However, in 2020, there was a 20.0% increase in total alcohol specific deaths compared to 2019. Deaths from mental and behavioural disorders due to alcohol increased by 10.8% (compared to a 1.1% increase between 2018 and 2019), and deaths from alcohol poisoning increased by 15.4% (compared to a decrease of 4.5% between 2018 and 2019).
Alcoholic liver deaths accounted for 80.3% of total alcohol specific deaths in 2020 and saw a 20.8% increase between 2019 and 2020
The UK purchased 12,607,408 extra litres of alcohol in 2020/21
The PHE report concludes that before the pandemic, there were already increased alcohol-related hospital admissions and deaths. The pandemic seems to have accelerated these trends.
Tell us your story
If the pandemic has altered your relationship with your alcohol, we’d love to hear from you. We don’t need to share your personal details but we can share your experiences to help raise awareness and support others.
Looking after yourself
We recognise that times have been hard. Routines have been disrupted, stress levels are heightened and the usual ways in which we relax and unwind may not have been available to us during the pandemic.
You might find yourself drinking more than usual without noticing. If you’re worried about your drinking getting out of hand, there are tools available to help you keep track and get support.
Find out more
- Check your drinking using the self-assessment tool at Drinkaware
- Support for managers
- Alcohol and You – an NHS self help guide (PDF, 2MB)
- Alcohol statistics – the latest facts and figures about UK consumption at Alcohol Change UK
- Alchohol in the workplace factsheet (PDF, 44KB)
- Drinkaware at Work e-learning course – a fun, interactive, and engaging programme for employees of any sized organisation.