Coronavirus: Increased alcohol consumption during lockdown could lead to ‘second health crisis’, warn researchers

It is feared that daily drinkers could be most at risk

Matt Mathers
Thursday 16 April 2020 14:12 BST

Increased alcohol consumption during the Covid-19 pandemic could lead to a “second health crisis”, researchers have warned.

Researchers at the University of Portsmouth fear a spike in alcohol misuse during lockdown may result in longer-term health issues for at-risk individuals and have launched a study to investigate this.

A team of researchers at the university is working to better understand how many people are turning to alcohol to handle stress, anxiety and boredom during the lockdown.

“This period of isolation might lead to a spike in alcohol misuse and, potentially, development of addiction in at-risk individuals or relapse in recovered addicted patients, therefore placing further strain on drug and alcohol services, and the health service in general, during and after the pandemic,” said Dr Matt Park of Portsmouth University.

“It is unprecedented to have so many millions of people across the world effectively locked away from their jobs, friends and families.”

Dr Parker added: “How people cope with this is varied, but there is a lot of anecdotal evidence of people responding by drinking more alcohol worldwide.”

Those who volunteer for the anonymous survey are being asked to report their alcohol use, stress, and boredom levels weekly and to record any changes.

James Clay, a PhD candidate who is administering the survey, said: “In the first week that the survey has been up and running, people have signed up from across the world, including the UK, USA, Australia and mainland Europe.

“In time, we hope the results will help health providers and governments to prepare for, and potentially mitigate, a second health crisis that could result if many people are consuming more alcohol.”

In separate research conducted by polling company Opinium for the charity Alcohol Change UK, almost one in five of daily drinkers in the UK said they had increased the amount of alcohol they consume during lockdown.

Meanwhile, one in three of the 2,000 people surveyed said they were taking steps to manage or stop drinking.

Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance UK, said it was a good thing people were thinking about reducing alcohol consumption but raised concerns over people who drank daily.

“Cutting down on alcohol will not only improve our own health but it will help to protect the NHS long term, and so it is important that these healthy trends continue,” he said.

“That said, lockdown will be a difficult experience for many dependent drinkers, those in recovery, or those whose alcohol consumption has risen sharply in the last few weeks.”

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