During the lockdown, many employees have been placed on furlough and this presents many people with issues relating to boredom and a loss of routine. As a result, more and more people are turning to alcohol as a coping strategy to help pass the time, and are drinking more frequently and in larger quantities due to spending more time at home.
The government recommends that people drink fewer than 14 units a week. Drinking 14 units or less per week is categorised as ‘low-risk drinking’. That means that you are less at risk of harm than if you were drinking more than 14 units per week. It does not mean that you are free from harm – any amount of alcohol can be bad for your health.
Excessive alcohol intake can have a range of negative effects on your body, including weight gain and disturbed sleep. It is also linked to a range of health issues such as pancreatitis, diabetes, heart disease and cancer, with over 9,000 deaths directly related to alcohol reported in the UK every year.
A change in how we’re using alcohol
A new study from the independent alcohol education charity, Drinkaware, has found that 36% of furloughed workers are drinking more than they did prior to lockdown, slightly higher than the 26% of people working from home who reported the same.
This shift could mean that many of us will emerge from lockdown with ingrained drinking habits, which once established, are far harder to break, according to the charity.
This change in drinking patterns comes as no surprise. As Dr Jill Miller, Senior Policy Adviser at the CIPD, explains, “People are experiencing significant changes to many aspects of their lives and many do not have their usual work routine.” In other words, in times of uncertainty, usual lifestyles are easily disrupted.
Drinkaware’s recently published study, conducted in partnership with the CIPD, highlights some interesting results about how drinking patterns have changed since the arrival of COVID-19.
Since lockdown began, of those who are furloughed and drink:
- 28% are drinking on days they wouldn’t usually drink
- 15% are having their first drink earlier in the day
- 9% have had a drink in secret or covered up the fact they are having a drink.
The results for those who are working from home and drink are similar:
- 26% are drinking on days they wouldn’t usually drink
- 14% have had their first drink earlier in the day
- 5% have had a drink in secret or covered up the fact they are having a drink.
Resources to help you and those you care about
If you’re worried about your level of alcohol intake, or that of someone you care about, or you would like to learn more about alcohol and how you can reduce your level of drinking, why not access our self-directed learning module?
Drinkaware helps people to reduce alcohol-related harm by offering impartial information, advice and practical resources including:
- An online self-assessment which can help you to identify patterns and signs of potentially risky alcohol use
- An app which helps you to keep track of your units
- A wide range of information and advice on alcohol including how to cut down, and what to do if you’re worried about someone else’s drinking.
If you’re keen to look at cutting down on your consumption of alcohol, you might find this video of interest.