Pandemic sees increase in alcohol related ill health

Pubs, bars and restaurants have been closed a lot of the time since the pandemic began over a year ago. However a recent report showed that alcohol consumption has remained very similar to pre pandemic levels, meaning that levels of alcohol consumed at home has increased. In fact sales of alcohol in shops and supermarkets have increased by almost 25% in the financial year 2020/21 compared to 2019/20. 

It was those who were the heaviest drinkers pre pandemic who increased their spending on alcohol the most.  From the first lockdown to the end of 2020 an increase in levels of increasing and higher risk drinking (more than 50 units per week for men and 35 units per week for women) has been shown. However from 2021 onwards these have been returning to pre pandemic levels.

Alongside this an increase in alcohol related health issues and deaths has also been seen.  

  • Alcohol-specific deaths increased by 20.0% in 2020 (from 5,819 in 2019 to 6,983) and alcoholic liver disease accounted for just over 80.3% of all deaths in 2020. 
  • There was a rapid increase in the number of alcoholic liver deaths, rising by 20.8% between 2019 and 2020, compared to a rise of 2.9% between 2018 and 2019

Other findings include:

  • Deaths from mental and behavioural disorders due to alcohol increased by 10.8% between 2019 and 2020 (compared to a 1.1% increase between 2018 and 2019), but hospital admissions were down
  • Deaths from alcohol poisoning increased by 15.4% between 2019 and 2020 (compared to a decrease of 4.5% between 2018 and 2019), but hospital admissions were down
  • 33.0% of all alcohol-specific deaths occurred in the most deprived 20%
  • The North East has the biggest increase in death rate out of all regions, reaching a peak rate of 28.4 deaths per 100,000 population in July 2020 (79.7% higher than the baseline rate in 2018 and 2019 combined)
  • The rate of unplanned hospital admissions per 100,000 population for alcoholic liver disease increased by 3.2% between 2019 and 2020, though the rate of total alcohol-specific admissions decreased by 3.2% (which mirrors the direction of all hospital admissions irrespective of cause)

(Source: Public Health England)

Although Covid-19 restrictions are now easing the long term effects of the pandemic on our health and wellbeing are still being seen.

You can find out if you are at risk by taking the British Liver Trust’s online quiz. 

If you are worried about your drinking you can find out how you can get help on the Alcohol Change UK website.

Pandemic sees increase in alcohol related ill health