A negative effect of the pandemic: millions in the UK drink harmful amounts of alcohol at home

The number of Brits consuming large amounts of alcohol at home has risen by two million over the last year. The coronavirus pandemic has affected alcohol consumption habits. People forced to stay in their homes succumbed to drinking as a coping mechanism for dealing with insecurity and stress. In mid-January, the British newspaper The Guardian published an article on the increased alcohol consumption in British homes. We asked Dr. Albert Kšiňan, who deals with this topic in his research, to comment on this article from the perspective of the Czech Republic.

27 Jan 2022 Marie Hošťálková

The alcohol consumption data were collected in a survey by YouGov, a UK-based global public opinion and data company. They reported that at the end of October 2021, 8 million people (11% of the UK population) were drinking alcohol at rates putting them at risk for alcohol addiction. In October 2019, this was 'only' 5 million, but by February 2020, the figure had already risen to 6 million.

According to Professor Julie Sinclair, Head of the Faculty of Addiction Medicine at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, twice as many men drink dangerous quantities of alcohol than women. People are consuming alcohol more frequently to cope with the insecurity and anxiety caused by the pandemic. Some have thus developed harmful drinking habits. But Professor Julie Sinclair points out that the increase in drinking at home may not just be compensation for restaurants closing because of the pandemic. Thus, people who have become accustomed to drinking at home will likely continue once, even after the epidemic ends.

The UK and the Czech Republic have seen significant increases in drinking due to restaurant and pub closures. We asked Dr. Albert Kšiňan, from RECETOX, who deals with the effects of alcohol on human health to assess the current situation in the Czech Republic.

"In some ways, drinking at home can be considered riskier than drinking in a pub - in a pub; consumption is limited to some extent by price, social context, or the fact that the amount of alcohol consumed is easier to quantify in units," says Albert Kšiňan.

The overall alcohol consumption in the Czech Republic did not increase during the pandemic; this however, does not tell the whole story, since, on the one hand, people who typically consume low levels of alcohol drank less due to the closure of pubs, while problem drinkers consumed more alcohol at home. The increase in the number of people drinking at home is troubling. This is especially true for the Czech Republic, which has had the highest per capita alcohol consumption globally for a very long time. "If you've noticed that your home alcohol consumption has increased during the pandemic, it might be worth pausing to think about what led to it. The stress associated with the realities of the pandemic is easily solved by drinking. Still, such a habit can be difficult to break the longer we let it build," concludes Albert Kšiňan.

Read the full article published in The Guardian.

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