Number of high-risk drinkers almost doubled in lockdown, report reveals

The number of high-risk drinkers nearly doubled during lockdown, with the problem worse in groups of higher social class, a Government report has shown.

Survey data showed the proportion of people classified as drinking more than the recommended levels increased from 10.8 per cent in February to 19.4 per cent in April. The number decreased to 17.6 per cent in May, but rose again to 19 per cent in June. 

In June last year, 12.6 per cent of people were drinking dangerous amounts of alcohol. 

The report showed that high-risk drinking was higher in men than women, with more than a quarter of men – 25.9 per cent – reporting problematic drinking, compared to just 12.7 per cent of women. 

Misuse of alcohol was more prevalent in higher social class groups compared with lower social class groups – 21 per cent and 17.1 per cent respectively. 

Food and drink sales were 11.4 per cent higher in volume in 2020 than in 2019, with alcohol sales seeing rises of 27.8 per cent, largely driven by an increase in beer and cider sales.

When broken down by nutrients, there was an increase of 15.5 per cent in average weekly volume of total fat purchased – 15.4 per cent in saturated fat and 14.1 per cent in calories – compared with 2019.

The results of a survey by Oxford University, published this week, showed that drinking too much alcohol, poor diet and less physical activity during lockdown all adversely affected mental health in England. 

Stanley Ulijaszek, a professor of human ecology, said: “Covid-19 lockdown has resulted in increased levels of anxiety, poor sleep, persistent sadness, binge-eating, suicidal thoughts, snacking, consumption of alcohol and reduced levels of physical activity. 

“These changes have potential long-term consequences for obesity rates and chronic disease more broadly.”

The “Wider Impacts of Covid-19 on Health” report also showed that many people had not sought medical advice despite suffering from a worsening health condition.

In the week up to July 13, 13.1 per cent of respondents reported having a worsening health condition, of whom 51.6 per cent said that they had not sought advice. The group most likely not to seek advice were those aged 55 to 64. 

Of those reporting a worsening health condition, the reasons most commonly stated for not seeking advice were to avoid putting pressure on the NHS (58.3 per cent), concern about catching coronavirus (35.1 per cent) and concern about leaving the house (30.2 per cent).

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