People were more distressed during lockdown and were drinking more often

We are living through one of the longest experiments in human history – how isolation in high-stress times alters our behaviour? Scientists already made some interesting findings – parents are feeling more stressed, pets help and, as this new study from the University of Glasgow showed, people are drinking more.

People are drinking more in lockdown, despite more bars and other drinking places being closed. Image credit: Davide Restivo via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Due to COVID-19 lockdown many people found themselves trapped in their homes. Negative news, worries about the future of the economy, various political crises around the world – there is so much to be stressed about. And how do people deal with stress? They drink.

Scientists analysed data from over 27,000 individuals and found that binge drinking increased from 10.8% in 2017-19 to 16.2% during lockdown. There are more people that drink four or more times per week – this line in alcohol statistics grew from 13.7 % to 22 %. People who are younger than 25 didn’t seem to change their drinking behaviour. However, older ones did, especially white people, women and those who have higher degree education. A typical drinking day, though, did change – people drink more often, but less alcohol.

Why do people drink more? Well, the same study showed that psychological distress increased over time from 19.4% in 2017-19 to 30.6% during the lockdown. Dr Claire Niedzwiedz, one of the authors of the study, said: “The increases in psychological distress and alcohol use in the UK highlight the need to consider how the potential health harms associated with lockdown measures can be mitigated, especially for those who are most at risk.” People under 45 were distressed the most, as well as asian minority and women.

Not everything is so hopelessly negative. Although alcohol use increased and binge drinking became more common,  current cigarette smoking decreased. This could be due to the fact that one has to go out of home to buy cigarettes. However, it could also be because for many smokers smoking is a social activity they partake in with their colleagues. You cannot go to work or meet your friends so maybe smoking is just less appealing. Scientists found that younger people and men quit smoking the most during the lockdown period. There is no data, however, whether smokers returned to the old habits once the lockdown regime became less strict.

This is a very stressful time for everyone. You may be worrying about the possibility that you will lose your job or the health of your older relatives. However, try to focusing on something positive. Millions of people took the opportunity provided by this lockdown to pick up new skills and hobbies. This could be a way for you to emerge from this lockdown a better person and a professional than you were going into it.


Source: University of Glasgow

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