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23 Nov 2020

New paper: Did households buy more alcohol during our first national lockdown?

Wine bottle

Did households buy more alcohol during our first national lockdown?

Several self-reported surveys have found that adults say they have been drinking more than they normally would, during COVID-19 lockdown.

This study uses alcohol purchase data to explore whether British households bought more alcohol than they normally would during the first COVID-19 lockdown period beginning in March 2020. It compares data from 2020 to previous years, as well as taking into account the alcohol that households would normally purchase in on-licence premises such as pubs and restaurants.

The findings

The study found that, when taking into account usual on-licence purchases, households didn’t buy significantly more alcohol (measured in units) during the recent COVID-19 lockdown.

The results are interesting, as they contradict self-reported surveys which suggest that adults have been drinking significantly more during COVID-19 lockdown, as recently highlighted by alcohol concern charity, Balance.

What happens next?

This difference needs further investigation, including the extent to which self-reported data might reflect anxiety or disorientation during what is an unprecedented change to the normal activities of daily living.

The study was led by Professor Peter Anderson, Newcastle University; supported by Professor Eva Jane Llopis, Maastricht University; Dr Amy O’Donnell, Newcastle University; and Professor Eileen Kaner, Newcastle University and Director of the NIHR ARC North East and North Cumbria.

It was published in Alcohol and Alcoholism (Oxford University Press), 20 November 2020.

Read the full paper