Alcohol drinkers change habits during coronavirus lockdown

An estimated one million people are drinking more often but the same number are cutting down or stopping completely.

Drinkers in Scotland have changed their alcohol consumption during lockdown, with an estimated one million people drinking more often and the same number cutting down or stopping completely.

A poll carried out found 29% of Scots who drink are doing so more regularly, while 29% said they are drinking less often.

In terms of the amount of alcohol people are drinking, almost half (48%) said their consumption has not changed, 19% said they are drinking more than before the lockdown, 20% have cut down and a further 13% have stopped altogether.

The findings of the online survey of 576 Scottish adults, carried out by Opinium and commissioned by health charities Alcohol Focus Scotland and Alcohol Change UK, suggest people who were drinking the least before lockdown are cutting back more than heavier drinkers.

Half of respondents who rarely drank before the coronavirus pandemic – once a month or less – have cut down or stopped drinking completely, compared to 19% of those who drank more than three times a week.

Meanwhile, 29% of people who drank four or more times a week before lockdown have further increased the amount they drink.

Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said: “Many people drink alcohol to relax, forget their problems and combat feelings of stress but as many people are seeing, it’s not always the best coping mechanism.

“As well as affecting our sleep, drinking alcohol can make it more difficult to manage our negative thoughts and feelings and increase our levels of anxiety.

“Over the longer term, regularly drinking over 14 units a week can cause more serious health problems, increasing our risk of cancer, stroke and liver disease.

“If you are drinking at home, it’s a good idea to try to keep track of how much you’re having, stay within the low-risk limits of 14 units a week and try to make sure you have alcohol-free days.”

During Tuesday’s Scottish Government coronavirus briefing, Scotland’s interim chief medical officer Dr Gregor Smith highlighted that alcohol can reduce the immune system’s ability to fight off infectious diseases and suggested drinking less.

“This is a stressful time for people,” he said.

“Sometimes, when we feel this way, we use substances like tobacco or alcohol more than we usually do.

“Alcohol can reduce the immune system’s ability to fight off infectious disease, and also have an impact on your heart and your lungs.

“Choosing to cut back on how much you drink may reduce some of the complications linked to coronavirus.”

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