The “long shadow on our health”: changing alcohol habits following the pandemic

01 August 2022
1 min read

​As a result of the pandemic, everyone’s daily lives changed dramatically. So did our habits and food choices.

Studies from University of Sheffield and Institute of Alcohol Studies/HealthLumen have recently shown the detrimental impact of the pandemic on alcohol consumption and health. The modelling used in the studies is drawn from a range of sources and the underlying model, SAPM, has been used extensively across the globe to address alcohol policy concerns.

The report’s key conclusions included:

  • Alcohol Toolkit Study data shows that lighter drinkers decreased their consumption during the pandemic, but heavy drinkers increased consumption
  • 25–34-year-olds who were drinking at risky levels before the pandemic have seen the biggest increase in alcohol consumption in 2020/21

Over the next 20 years, there will be an additional 207,597 alcohol-attributable hospital admissions and 7,153 alcohol-attributable deaths, costing the NHS an additional £1.1bn compared to if alcohol consumption had remained at 2019 levels

The report’s best-case scenario (if drinking behaviour returns to pre-pandemic levels in 2022) estimates an additional 42,677 alcohol-attributable hospital admissions and 1,830 deaths over 20 years

Colin Angus, senior research fellow who led the University of Sheffield study said, “These figures highlight that the pandemic’s impact on our drinking behaviour is likely to cast a long shadow on our health and paint a worrying picture at a time when NHS services are already under huge pressure due to treatment backlogs.”

IAS’ head of research, Dr Sadie Boniface said, “The increases in alcohol harm, lives lost, and costs to the NHS projected in our study are not inevitable. We lack an alcohol strategy and progress on alcohol harm has been limited in recent years in England. This research should act as a ‘wake-up call’ to take alcohol harm seriously as part of recovery planning from the pandemic.”