Scottish Government must act now to avoid wave of alcohol-related issues
More than a quarter of adult drinkers in Scotland – 29 per cent – drank more during early lockdown, according to Drinkaware’s Monitor 2020.
The alcohol education charity’s annual report recorded alarming increases in drinking across the country.
And one in 10 Scottish drinkers – some 370,000 adults – admitted drinking more than they normally would throughout lockdown, even as restrictions eased.
Job insecurity and negative mental health were major factors in their behaviour.
Now, as restrictions tighten and lives continue to be disrupted, Drinkaware fears a wave of alcohol-related health problems.
The charity is calling on the Scottish Government and employers to consider the pandemic’s effect on drinking behaviours and prioritise the impact of alcohol harm.
This includes alcohol consumption being looked at as a factor within mental health strategies and for employers to include alcohol consumption in their well-being programmes and policies.
A study of 1318 Scottish adults found that those categorised as higher risk drinkers – representing nearly 700,000 Scottish adults – are most likely to have drunk more than normal (22 per cent) throughout lockdown, compared with other categories of drinker in Scotland.
This group were also more likely to be drinking on more days a week than usual and to drink earlier in the day.
Elaine Hindal, Drinkaware chief executive, said: “Our monitor shows that when people are feeling fragile – whether they’re uncertain about their futures or struggling with working at home – they could be reaching for a drink.
“While some people adapt, many might not be getting to grips with the so-called new normal, continuing to drink more than they usually would.
“Drinking can cause mental health conditions or make them worse, negatively affect your sleep, lead to weight gain, and has the potential to impair your immune function. It can also have many other serious long-term mental and physical health consequences.
“As a nation we must wake up to the health impact of drinking so much alcohol.
“The evidence clearly links drinking more to job insecurity and negative mental health.
“If general uncertainty lies ahead, it is crucial that we do not sleepwalk into the winter months and ignore these lockdown lessons.
“Otherwise, we could face a wave of alcohol-related health issues across the country.”
The most common reason people in Scotland gave for drinking more was having more time available and less structure to their day or week with 50 per cent citing this.