The study published in the journal Addiction surveyed 21 European countries to determine how the COVID-19 pandemic affected alcohol use. Greece had one of the largest average decreases in alcohol consumption recorded in the entirety of Europe during the pandemic.
31, 964 European adults participated in the survey. The researchers found overall that alcohol use had decreased in Europe, but the United Kingdom and Ireland had increased alcohol consumption. Other than Greece, Albania, Finland, Italy, Slovakia, and Spain also reported high rates of decline in alcohol use during the pandemic.
The researchers discuss the reduced affordability of alcohol as a reason for the decline in use. During COVID-19 affordability reduced not due to improved alcohol policies, but rather due to lower wages or lack of work. However, the results show there is potential for alcohol pricing policies and reducing affordability to reduce alcohol use and resulting harm.
Many European countries used alcohol policy solutions as a method to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. The majority of these policies related to reducing alcohol availability, such as through reduced sales hours or temporary sales bans.
Greece, for instance, has implemented several curfews during the pandemic. Even though these were not specific to alcohol, an unintended result was reduced availability of alcohol because alcohol outlets were closed.
European countries’ attempts at improving alcohol policies during COVID-19 are in line with latest evidence and WHO guidance. A groundbreaking report revealed the lethal interaction alcohol has with the ongoing pandemic.
- Alcohol increases the health and societal problems arising from the pandemic. For example, alcohol weakens the immune system and makes people more susceptible to infections. And alcohol-centric social contexts have been COVID-19 super spreader events.
- Alcohol increases the burden on healthcare and emergency services which are already stretched due to the COVID-19.
- The alcohol industry exploits the pandemic to change alcohol laws to their private benefit.
Early on in the pandemic the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended reducing alcohol availability to curb the COVID-19 pandemic and reduce potentially severe complications of the virus.