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21 June 2021

New major survey reveals the impact of lockdown on Scottish people’s drinking habits

5,339 people surveyed in major study of Scottish people’s drinking habits during the pandemic
49% of respondents said the pandemic has led to them drinking more than usual
30% of respondents report drinking more than 10 units on a typical drinking day
33% of respondents have been concerned about their drinking during lockdown
30% of respondents reported drinking to deal with stress and anxiety
27% of respondents reported being concerned about a loved one’s drinking during lockdown
26.5% of respondents’ drinking is classed either as increasing risk, higher risk or possible dependence
93% of respondents said they’ve never accessed support relating to their drinking

A major new survey reveals the huge impact the pandemic has had on the drinking habits of Scottish people, with nearly half of respondents saying they’re drinking more now than before the pandemic began. 

The survey, conducted by drug, alcohol and mental health charity We Are With You, used Facebook advertising to ask people about how the pandemic has affected their drinking. While not representative of the whole population, over 5,300 people responded meaning it provides a thorough snapshot of alcohol consumption at the current time. 
Along with the statistic that nearly half of respondents are drinking more now than before the pandemic, the survey also found that nearly one in three respondents are drinking more than four times a week, with around the same number drinking more than 10 units, around five pints of lager or five large glasses of wine, on a typical day when drinking. 

Furthermore, the survey also shows how the stress and anxiety of living through a pandemic has led people to use alcohol as a way to cope, with nearly one in three respondents saying they have drunk as a way of dealing with these issues. A third of respondents reported being concerned about their own drinking during the lockdown restrictions while over a quarter reported being concerned about the drinking of a loved one. 

Respondents were also given a score based on the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test which indicates the potential risk of their drinking habits. Over a quarter of people were judged to be at either increasing risk, higher risk or possible dependence, with female respondents more likely to be placed in all three categories. Despite this, 93% of respondents said they’ve never accessed support in relation to their drinking. 

Rob Millen accessed support for his drinking with We Are With You’s service in Glasgow at the start of lockdown. He said: 
“Isolation and heavy drinking often go hand in hand. It’s often a way of shutting yourself off from the world, so I’m not surprised that many people have started drinking more during the pandemic. 
“As we entered lockdown back last March, I felt broken. I had been drinking heavily for years and couldn’t see a way out. I couldn’t live with alcohol, but I couldn’t live without it either. I was referred to We Are With You in Glasgow. I was sceptical at first, but I just had this instant connection with Maggie, my worker. She didn’t judge me at all, just made me feel really comfortable while helping me build up my confidence and self worth. Since then I’ve thrown myself into the online support, attending groups and even running some myself.
“As lockdown eases and people start to assess some of the patterns they have fallen into, it’s important they know warm, compassionate support around alcohol is available free of charge. You don’t need to worry about being labelled or placing extra strain on the NHS.”

Andrew Horne, Director in Scotland for With You, said: 
“These are really tough times for everyone. Uncertainty and anxiety cloud our lives while the necessary restrictions to control the virus have left lots of people socially isolated. It’s no wonder many are drinking more as a way to cope. 

“2019 saw one of the biggest year on year reductions in alcohol related deaths in the past 40 years in Scotland. Unfortunately, there’s a chance that the impact of the pandemic could undo this progress. The number of people regularly drinking 10 plus units in a single session, often as a way of dealing with mental health issues, is concerning, as is the number of people judged to be at risk. 

“As a treatment provider, we see everyday the amazing impact support can have on people’s lives. Yet 93% of people who responded have never accessed any kind of support. Many people fear being labelled or think you need to hit rock bottom to reach out for help. That’s not the case. Our services are warm, non-judgemental spaces where we concentrate on people as a whole, working alongside people to help them make healthier choices. People set their own goals based on what they want to achieve, it’s not always about becoming abstinent.

“As lockdown eases, it’s important people know that all our services are open and you don’t have to worry about placing extra strain on the NHS. A great start is talking anonymously to an advisor via our online webchat service. Just go to www.wearewithoyu.org.uk.”