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As many as eight million people in England are drinking harmful amounts of wine, beer and spirits at home according to the latest government data.

Figures from the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities found that there had been a significant increase in people drinking at levels that could be considered dangerous.

Experts cited the lockdowns and a rise in drinking at home as a root cause, with drinking sessions lasting several hours longer at home than they would if a person was visiting the pub.

Silent harm

The NHS recommends that adults drink no more than 14 units of alcohol per week, which is the equivalent of six pints of average-strength beer or 10 small glasses of lower-strength wine.

However, figures taken from recent YouGov surveys show that around 18.1 per cent of adults in England were drinking at ‘increasing or higher risk’ from August to October 2021. This equates to around eight million people.

Prior to the pandemic this figure was significantly lower, with just 12.4 per cent of adults in England drinking at these levels (February 2020).

Professor Julia Sinclair, chair of the addictions faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, says that many people do not realise that they have a problem and are causing themselves “silent harm” through drinking excessively at home.

The data also suggests that more than twice as many men as women are drinking alcohol at hazardous levels, demonstrating that people are still being affected by the uncertainty and anxiety brought about the pandemic, which had caused them to develop dangerous drinking habits.

Professor Sinclair added: “What we’re going to see is that some people who were perhaps drinking at a higher risk but weren’t physically dependent will have pushed themselves into being physically dependent, and they’re not the group who can suddenly wind back from this.

“What was really clear was that just nine months of drinking, as we saw in 2020, was enough to push a whole load of people over the edge. We’ve yet to see the data from this year, but my guess anecdotally would be that it is going to be substantial.”

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