More drinkers cut than increase alcohol in lockdown

Corona beer is promoted at Tesco on April 28, 2020 in Shoreham, United Kingdom. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

People missing out on drinking in restaurants and bars during coronavirus lockdowns are not entirely making up for it by pouring more at home, a survey of nine countries, including the UK, conducted on behalf of beer, wine and spirits companies showed.

The International Alliance for Responsible Drinking (IARD), made up of 12 major alcoholic beverage companies, said its survey of 11,000 people found that 30 percent were drinking less than before, and 11 percent were drinking more.

The global numbers were skewed by figures from South Africa, which banned alcohol during the pandemic, and Mexico, which imposed tight restrictions on it. In both those countries most people are drinking less and only a tiny fraction drinking more.

But even in other countries, more people said they had cut back on alcohol than increased it.

In France, 29 percent of people are drinking less and only 10 percent drinking more. Similar effects, if less pronounced, were observed in Germany, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and, to a lesser extent, the US.

Britain was the exception, where the figures were almost the same: 21 percent drinking less and 19 percent drinking more, despite the total shutdown of pubs and bars.

“Despite reports of people rushing to stock up on alcohol in supermarkets, pictures of empty shelves, and early increases in off-premise alcohol sales, today’s polling indicates that the vast majority of people in these nine countries consumed the same or less alcohol during shutdowns,” commented Henry Ashworth, president of IARD.

“It is also encouraging that many intend to maintain these moderate habits as restaurants and bars, which have been sorely missed as a vital part of many people’s social wellbeing, begin to open.”

A separate survey by the Portman Group, the UK trade body of alcoholic beverage companies showed that a large majority remained within the UK Chief Medical Officers’ 14 units a week low risk drinking guidelines. Even among those drinking more, close to half remain within these guidelines.

Half of Brits in the IARD survey said they expect to maintain their new reduced drinking habits, and that socialising in pubs, bars and restaurants only ranks behind socialising with friends and family in terms of the things they miss about pre-lockdown life.

Commenting on the studies, Portman Group chief executive John Timothy said: “These surveys are further proof that fears of Brits binge drinking through lockdown are unfounded, with the majority of UK drinkers continuing to remain within the Government’s low risk guidelines, even those drinking a little bit more than previously.

“However, we must be mindful that there remains a minority who continue to drink at hazardous levels and have actually increased their consumption, and we join with other organisatons in calling for those struggling to be given the professional support they need.”

(With Agencies)