The new research survey by Nanos Research was conducted among 1003 Canadians. Respondents were reached via telephone or online randomly between September 30 and October 4 to gather the data.
The survey found the following:
- 20% reported increasing alcohol use.
- 16% reported their mental health worsened and 24% reported mental health is somewhat worsened.
- Nearly half reported their mental health was the same as before COVID-19.
- 4% said their mental health was somewhat better.
The findings show an increase in mental health problems from April, 2020 and early lockdown stages when 10% reported worse and 28% reported somewhat worse mental health.
The research also found that reported mental health problems disproportionately affected specific groups and provinces, namely Ontario and the Prairie as well as women more than men.
The increase in alcohol use affected provinces differently as well, with Atlantic provinces and Ontario having the highest increases of 26% and 23% respectively.
Movendi International previously reported on a study by the Canadian Journal of Public Health which found that there is a strong correlation between exposure to mass traumatic events and increased alcohol consumption and related harms both in the short term and for one to two years after a crisis.
These results are concerning regarding the new data showing increased alcohol consumption is continuing in Canada during the pandemic.
Deregulation and weakening of alcohol laws in several provinces are adding fuel to the fire. In Canada alcohol is regulated provincially and not nationally. During the pandemic many provinces weakened their alcohol policies, including by granting alcohol essential status and increasing the availability and affordability of alcohol.
Canada could benefit from scientifically proven alcohol policy solutions, especially given the rising alcohol and mental health problems. The World Health Organization has recommended to reduce alcohol availability during lockdowns and the pandemic. This is due to a host of reasons:
- Alcohol increases the risk of infection and risk of more severe COVID-19 disease progression,
- Alcohol weakens the immune system, and
- Alcohol-related injury, disease and violence increase the burden on healthcare and emergency services which are already near or over capacity.
Many countries have used alcohol policy solutions to contain the spread of COVID-19 and to ease the burden of alcohol harm on the healthcare system during the pandemic. For example, South Africa implemented a successful alcohol sales ban during pandemic and there is evidence from several other countries implementing cost-effective alcohol policy best buys to reduce the COVID-19 burden.