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2 April 2020

Charity warns social distancing could lead to a surge in harmful drinking

Increased isolation could lead to a surge in people drinking harmful levels of alcohol, warns drug, alcohol and mental health charity We Are With You (formerly Addaction). 

The necessary social distancing measures in place to slow down the spread of Covid19 mean many people are staying at home and becoming more socially isolated. With You’s data shows that 80% of the older adults it supports through its Drink Wise, Age Well programme drink at home alone, citing issues such as loneliness and lack of social contact as key reasons. Additionally, data from the programme shows higher risk drinkers are much more likely to drink on their own at home, with 50% of people in this category citing a loss of a sense of purpose as a reason for increasing their alcohol use. 

Now the charity warns that increased social isolation could lead to a surge in harmful drinking across the population. Research by market research firm Kantar found alcohol sales increased by 22% in March, with Britons spending an extra £160m on alcohol in the first three weeks of the month.

Public Health England states that harmful alcohol consumption is defined by someone drinking more than 14 units per week, equivalent to six pints of beer or six glasses of wine. If people exceed these limits they are at increased risk of developing health issues such as liver disease, high blood pressure, cancer and strokes. Increased drinking could also put extra strain on the NHS through alcohol related hospital admissions, while regular alcohol use can lower people's immune system. 

Laura Bunt, Acting CEO at We Are With You said: 

“These are really difficult times for everyone. Our experience of working with people to reduce the amount of alcohol they drink shows that social isolation is a big factor in why people may drink more heavily. Coupled with the huge anxiety of living through a pandemic, this means we could see a big rise in people drinking more alcohol at home. 

“Harmful drinking can impact people’s physical and mental health, so I hope our simple tips to help reduce alcohol consumption are useful for anyone who might be worried they are drinking too much at this time. It’s also really important people know they aren’t alone through this crisis. Our services are still available to help anyone make healthier choices. Look up the treatment service in your local area or you can talk to a trained advisor via our online chat at www.wearewithyou.org.uk.”

Simple tips to reduce your drinking:

Drink free days

Having several drink free days will help reduce your alcohol use which should improve your physical and mental health. Public Health England has a Drink Free Days App to help you manage this. 

Find a routine

Social distancing can leave you feeling out of sync, but a routine can help provide order and familiarity. Try dividing your day up into sections and plan what you’re going to do at each time. Have slots for work, meals, chores, relaxation, exercise and stick to these as much as possible.

Stay in touch

Not being able to go out or have friends and family to visit can make people feel lonely, so make time to call people and where possible video call so you can see a friendly face. 

Reach out for support

There’s no shame in needing a helping hand in these tough times. If you are worried about yourself or a loved one you can speak anonymously to a trained advisor via We Are With You’s online webchat. Just visit www.wearewithyou.org.uk

How people can help others

We know times are tough for everyone right now but for people already struggling with drugs, alcohol or mental health problems it can be even harder. Just £8.40 could mean someone getting life-saving help through our online chat service. If you would like to help, you can visit wearewithyou.org.uk/covid-appeal to donate today or text WITHYOU to 70085 to donate £8.