A YouGov poll for Public Health England found that more people are consuming alcohol heavily since lockdown implemented to curb the coronavirus pandemic. Concerningly, the highest increases were in the age group of 55 to 64 followed by the 65 to 74 age group. The study found the following:
- Heavy alcohol use among adults rose from 3.4% to 5.7%. This translates to an increase from about 1,500,000 people to over 2,520,000 people.
- The highest increase was reported in the 55 to 64 age group. In September 2020 there were reportedly 40,694 more people in this age group dependent on alcohol. By December 2020 this had risen to 230,605 people.
- The next highest increase was among the 65 to 75 age group, followed by the 35 to 44 age group.
- The lowest reported increase was among the 18 to 24 age group.
The overall figures are a wake-up call to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on mental health and levels of heavy [alcohol use] that already existed,” said Tony Rao, Visiting Clinical Research Fellow at King’s College London, as per Daily Mail.Tony Rao, Visiting Clinical Research Fellow King’s College London
As Movendi International reported previously, data by the Institute of Alcohol Studies in October 2020 found that alcohol use had polarised in the UK during the pandemic. Those who were consuming alcohol heavily before the pandemic have increased their consumption even more while those who were consuming less had either maintained, reduced or gone alcohol-free.
Increasing alcohol consumption among older people has been a problem for the UK and the world since before the pandemic. It appears the coronavirus crisis worsened this existing problem. Older people had a tendency to use alcohol as an unhealthy coping mechanism to deal with the challenges of old age such as retirement and loss of loved ones, from before the pandemic. The new data suggests that they are using the same unhealthy coping mechanism to deal with pandemic stressors.
It is a problem that needs to be addressed urgently as older people are at higher risk of harm from alcohol. According to a report released by the IOGT-NTO Movement, the increased sensitivity to alcohol in old age combined with the ageing process can increase risk of disease and accidents. For example alcohol increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, dementia, and cancer for older people. Further, alcohol heightens the risk of falls and injuries, and mental health problems with older age. In the context of the ongoing pandemic older people are already at higher risk from contracting the virus and alcohol use increases the risk further, thus making matters even worse.