Social distancing could lead to a surge in harmful drinking, a charity has warned.
The necessary social distancing measures in place to slow down the spread of coronavirus mean many people are staying at home and becoming more socially isolated.
Data from the drug, alcohol and mental health charity We Are With You shows that 80 per cent of the older adults it supports drink at home alone, citing issues such as loneliness and lack of social contact as key reasons.
Higher risk drinkers are much more likely to drink on their own at home, with 50 per cent of people in this category citing a loss of a sense of purpose as a reason for increasing their alcohol use.
And now We Are With You has warned that increased social isolation could lead to a surge in harmful drinking across the population.
A study by market research firm Kantar found alcohol sales increased by 22 per cent in March, with Britons spending an extra £160 million on alcohol in the first three weeks of the month.
Harmful alcohol consumption is defined by Public Health England (PHE) as someone drinking more than 14 units per week, equivalent to six pints of beer or six glasses of wine.
If people exceed these limits they are at increased risk of developing health issues such as liver disease, high blood pressure, cancer and strokes.
Increased drinking could also put extra strain on the NHS through alcohol-related hospital admissions, while regular alcohol use can lower people’s immune systems.
Figures from PHE show that 22 per cent of adults in Essex regularly consume more than 14 units a week – lower than the national average of 26 per cent.
Meanwhile 1.1 per cent of people in Essex are estimated to have an alcohol dependence, and are potentially in need of specialist treatment.
Laura Bunt, Acting CEO at We Are With You, said: “These are really difficult times for everyone. Our experience of working with people to reduce the amount of alcohol they drink shows that social isolation is a big factor in why people may drink more heavily.
“Coupled with the huge anxiety of living through a pandemic, this means we could see a big rise in people drinking more alcohol at home.
“Harmful drinking can impact people’s physical and mental health, so I hope our simple tips to help reduce alcohol consumption are useful for anyone who might be worried they are drinking too much at this time.
“It’s also really important people know they aren’t alone through this crisis. Our services are still available to help anyone make healthier choices. Look up the treatment service in your local area or you can talk to a trained advisor via our online chat at www.wearewithyou.org.uk.”
The charity has offered some simple tips to reduce your drinking, including having drink-free days, finding a routine and staying in touch with friends and family.