Half a million Brits now drink at dangerous levels since lockdown

Half a million Britons increased their drinking to dangerous levels since lockdown began – with women and those in their 30s and 40s most affected, official figures say

  • Number of people consuming more than 50 alcohol units a week rose by 33 per cent
  • Public Health England said women aged in their 30s and 40s are most affected
  • 4.8 per cent of adults in England drink more than 50 alcohol units a week

Half a million adults have increased their drinking to severely dangerous levels since lockdown began, official figures suggest.

The number consuming more than 50 units of alcohol a week has soared by 33 per cent, according to Public Health England.

Women and those in their 30s and 40s have been most affected, which experts believe is due to the strain of balancing childcare with work.

Doctors warn the surge in such heavy drinking will have a major impact on the health of the nation for years to come.

The number consuming more than 50 units of alcohol a week has soared by 33 per cent with women aged in their 30s and 40s the most affected, according to Public Health England (stock image)

The number consuming more than 50 units of alcohol a week has soared by 33 per cent with women aged in their 30s and 40s the most affected, according to Public Health England (stock image)

Consultant psychiatrist Dr Tony Rao, an addictions specialist at King’s College London who analysed the data for the Daily Mail, said: ‘The overall numbers are staggering. Covid-19 has shone a light on the growing burden of alcohol problems in our society.’

Overall, 4.8 per cent of adults in England admit to drinking more than 50 units a week – the equivalent of 22 pints of beer or five bottles of wine.

That is an increase of a third from 3.6 per cent before lockdown began, according to interviews with 8,600 adults carried out by YouGov for PHE between May 13 and July 13.

Dr Rao calculates that when applied to the population of England, some 550,562 adults have started drinking dangerously heavy levels during lockdown. It is a jump from 1.65million a week to 2.2million.

Those aged 35 to 44 hit the bottle the hardest, the numbers suggest. There was a near-doubling of heavy drinkers in this group from 3.2 per cent to 5.7 per cent, a rise of 178,700.

Dr Rao said: ‘Many people in their 30s and 40s have been stuck at home with young children, trying to juggle childcare with working. Many have also been made redundant or furloughed. This has resulted in a rise in drinking to harmful levels.’

The proportion of women who consume more than 50 units a week nearly doubled from 1.6 per cent to 2.8 per cent. For men, it was up from 5.6 per cent to 6.9 per cent.

Young adults, aged 18 to 24, have actually reduced their drinking, continuing the trend of recent years.

Those with alcohol problems will now find it harder to get help, with most addiction services limited to online and remote support.

Consultant psychiatrist Dr Tony Rao, an addictions specialist at King’s College London, calculates that when applied to the population of England, some 550,562 adults have started drinking dangerously heavy levels during lockdown (stock image)

Consultant psychiatrist Dr Tony Rao, an addictions specialist at King’s College London, calculates that when applied to the population of England, some 550,562 adults have started drinking dangerously heavy levels during lockdown (stock image)

Dr Rao said: ‘Now more than ever is the time to increase expertise.

‘Covid-19 has shone a light on the burning deck of the growing burden of alcohol problems in our society. We have been waiting for a proper alcohol strategy since 2012. This is today’s problem – not tomorrow’s.’

Dr Katherine Severi, of the Institute of Alcohol Studies, added: ‘We need to make sure that preventing alcohol harm is a priority for the national Covid-19 recovery plan.’

Rosanna O’Connor, of Public Health England, advised adults to cut their risk by taking days off from drinking. It comes after a study by King’s College London found 29 per cent were drinking more alcohol.

Latest coronavirus video news, views and expert advice at mailplus.co.uk/coronavirus

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