UK: Emerging Evidence on Alcohol Use During COVID-19

The Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS) has released a summary report of emerging evidence about alcohol use and harm during the coronavirus crisis in the United Kingdom. The new report summarises emerging evidence regarding changes in UK alcohol consumption during the COVID-19 lockdown, by bringing together findings from different sources.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the UK went into lockdown on March 23, 2020.

There have been reports of increased supermarket spending on alcohol, but it is not yet known how overall alcohol sales have changed throughout the period since March.

In addition to ongoing research with data collection, a number of surveys have been set up specifically on the issue of alcohol use during the pandemic.

The findings of the surveys so far represent a mixed picture, according to the IAS briefing.

  • One study found that 25% of adults were high-risk alcohol users between April 2019 and February 2020 compared with 38% during lockdown in April 2020.
  • Several other surveys have reported that between a fifth and a third of people are consuming more alcohol during lockdown.
  • Where the proportion of people consuming less alcohol during lockdown has been reported, this is often similar to or exceeding the proportion of people consuming more alcohol during lockdown.

UK and COVID-19: Half of Alcohol Users Begin Consumption Earlier

Comparison between different surveys remains difficult so far since different survey use different designs and measures of alcohol consumption. Some groups might also be under-represented in some surveys. In particular, not enough is known about how the COVID-19 lockdown has affected heavy alcohol users and people with alcohol use disorders.

More research is needed to understand the socio-demographics of changes in alcohol consumption, how changes to alcohol consumption vary according to individuals’ pre-lockdown consumption, and how COVID-19-related impacts (such as furlough, redundancy, unemployment, bereavement, mental health) are associated with changes in alcohol consumption.

What is clear, however, is that tackling alcohol harms must be an essential part of the UK’s COVID-19 recovery plan.

Download the report

Alcohol Consumption during the COVID-19 Lockdown. Summary of emerging evidence from the UK, June 2020, IAS (PDF)

For further reading: 

UK: Doctors Call For Higher Alcohol Prices To Reduce NHS Burden

UK: Doctors Call For Higher Alcohol Prices To Reduce NHS Burden