Heaviest drinkers still drinking during lockdown: UK research


Alison Knopf

First published: 15 May 2020


Lockdown due to the COVID‐19 pandemic doesn’t necessarily result in an across‐the‐board increase in alcohol consumption, according to research commissioned by Alcohol Change UK and released last month. The study found that 21% of adults who drink alcohol are drinking more often since the March 23 lockdown began in England, but that 35% reduced their frequency of consumption or stopped drinking altogether. Of those surveyed, 6% of previous drinkers chose to stop drinking altogether during lockdown. The study, a representative survey of more than 2,000 people, extrapolates to 8.6 million adults in the United Kingdom drinking more frequently since lockdown, while 14 million are drinking less often or have stopped drinking entirely. In addition, many people are seeking help based on visits to the “Get help now” section of Alcohol Change UK’s website increasing 355% between March 23 and April 13, compared to the same period last year.

Here are details from the survey, showing that people are trying to manage their drinking:

  • 14% are taking drink‐free days;
  • 9% are careful with the amount of alcohol they buy;
  • 6% stopped drinking completely for the lockdown;
  • 4% are seeking advice online;
  • 3% are attending remote support groups;
  • 3% are receiving remote individual counseling; and
  • 2% are using apps to monitor their drinking.

However, the people who were drinking the least in the first place were the most likely to take these measures to cut back. So while 47% of people who drank once a week or less cut back, only 27% of those who drank two to six times a week tried to manage their drinking, and only 17% of daily drinkers did so.

“It is good news to see that many people are taking their health seriously during the coronavirus pandemic by reducing their alcohol consumption…. That said, lockdown will be a difficult experience for many dependent drinkers, those in recovery or those whose alcohol consumption has risen sharply in the last few weeks.”

Professor Sir Ian Gilmore


Wiley – DOI: https://www.doi.org/10.1002/adaw.32725