An addiction expert has warned about the escalation of alcohol consumption because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dr Sarah Wadd, Director of the Substance Misuse and Ageing Research Team (SMART) at the University of Bedfordshire, believes the current lockdown could stall or reverse the decade-long fall in the UK’s alcohol intake, leading to an increase in drinking. As well as other health issues, chronic heavy drinking may mean people are at increased risk of becoming seriously ill if infected by coronavirus.

“Previous studies have shown a link between increased alcohol consumption during times of crisis and quarantine. Research into the 2003 SARS outbreak in Toronto found that being quarantined was associated with higher alcohol intake, whilst a survey during the global financial crisis of 2007–08 saw an increase in binge drinking culture”, said Dr Wadd in a blog for Drink Wise Age Well.

Evaluated by the University of Bedfordshire’s SMART researchers and their academic partners, the Drink Wise Age Well programme aims to reduce alcohol harm in the over 50s through a number of activities and interventions. It also provides virtual and telephone support.

Dr Wadd’s survey with Drink Wise Age Well showed that, in general, 44% of people drank alcohol at home to relax or take their mind off problems and just 3% drank when they were lonely or bored. However, when the researchers focused on those with a higher risk level of drinking, 78% drank to relax or take their mind off problems and 42% drank when they were lonely or bored. “This suggests drinking could increase during the Covid-19 pandemic because many at-risk people will find themselves forced to stay at home feeling vulnerable, worried and alone, said Dr Wadds.”

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