Switzerland: Health Workers, Poor And Unemployed At Higher Risk of Alcohol Harm
Alcohol problems have a social justice dimension, in Switzerland, too. Healthcare workers, people from weaker socio-economic classes and people in unemployment are at higher risk of alcohol use disorder and other harm, addiction experts warn.
Addiction Switzerland, the national competency centre on addictions and working in the fields of prevention, research and knowledge sharing, has issued a warning that stress, anxiety and lack of a structured routine during the coronavirus pandemic can lead to heavy alcohol use and even alcohol use disorders.
Overall, Addiction Switzerland expects a decrease in alcohol consumption in the country due to the government’s confinement measures to fight and contain the spread of COVID-19. Studies on alcohol consumption in times of crisis show a decline in alcohol consumption among low-dose alcohol users, since usually affordability declines. During the current public health crisis also alcohol availability is declining in Switzerland.
But the addiction experts also caution that the crisis may aggravate alcohol problems in a significant number of people. Especially vulnerable groups include people with fewer socio-economical resources, as well as people who are prone to using alcohol as a self-medication to relieve stress – healthcare workers at risk of this type of behavior and habit development.
The World Health Organization and its regional office in Europe have issued guidance early on during the pandemic that alcohol is not a healthy coping tool. The WHO released a document developed by its Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse with a series of messages that can be used in communications to support mental and psychosocial well-being in different target groups during the outbreak, including healthcare workers and the general population.
Another group of people at increased risk of alcohol problems is those who are confronted with a less structured daily routine or are unemployed.
Addiction Switzerland called for urgent measures to detect and prevent alcohol problems in vulnerable groups in particular at an early stage. Monitoring average alcohol consumption or sales figures is not enough, the addiction experts have warned.
Apart from alcohol-related problems, Addiction Switzerland predicts that COVID-19 will most likely lead to long-lasting psychological problems such as sleep disorders, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress and depression in many people.