Poll shows 1m people have upped alcohol intake to dangerous levels

A million more are hitting the bottle: Huge swathe of drinkers have increased their alcohol intake to dangerous levels during Covid-19 pandemic, poll shows

  • More than 2.5million people are downing more than 50 units of alcohol a week
  • Rise was recorded across all age groups, but largest increase was in 55 to 64 
  • Harmful drinking is equivalent to 22 pints of beer or five bottles of wine a week  

More than one million drinkers in England have increased their consumption to severely dangerous levels during the pandemic, a poll suggests.

Before lockdown last March, an estimated 3.4 per cent of adults were downing more than 50 units of alcohol a week, the equivalent of around 1,500,000 people.

By December, this had risen to 5.7 per cent, or more than 2,520,000 people, according to analysis of a YouGov poll for Public Health England. 

The biggest jump was recorded in those aged 55-64 but a rise was seen across all groups.

Before lockdown, around 1.5million people were drinking a harmful amount of alcohol each week. As of December, that figure has risen to 2.5million

In this analysis, harmful drinking was defined as 50 or more units of alcohol a week, the equivalent of 22 pints of beer or five bottles of wine.

Tony Rao, Visiting Clinical Research Fellow at King’s College London, analysed the data for the Mail. 

He said the pandemic has driven heavy drinking to ‘alarming’ levels and that the figures were ‘a wake-up call’ on the impact on mental health and existing levels of alcohol abuse.

The data, based on a poll of 5,023 people, suggests in September there were 40,694 extra people in this age group who were dependent compared to pre-lockdown.

But by December this had increased five-fold to 230,605.

The next largest increase was in 65-74-year olds, followed by 35-44-year-olds.

Meanwhile the lowest jump was in 18-24-year-olds.

The increase comes following months of lockdown and social isolation as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Rao said: ‘The overall figures are a wake-up call to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on mental health and levels of heavy drinking that already existed.

‘Dry January has been an opportunity for many with less heavy drinking patterns to stop and re-consider their drinking but for others, this January has come after months of separation from loved ones and an increasingly uncertain future.

‘Both appear to have driven heavy drinking to alarming levels.’

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