Health experts react with alarm to new alcohol study

Sue Taylor, head of alcohol policy for Balance.Sue Taylor, head of alcohol policy for Balance.
Sue Taylor, head of alcohol policy for Balance.
The North East of England’s alcohol programme has expressed alarm at the findings of a major new study in relation to alcohol.

Balance says it is concerned that those already at risk of harm from drinking bought significantly more booze during Covid-19 lockdowns and it has called on the Government to take “more action”.

Academics from Newcastle University and the National Institute for Health Research Applied Research Collaboration North East and North Cumbria examined Kantar shopping data from 80,000 households and found that Britain’s heaviest drinkers – those in the top fifth of households that would consistently purchase the most alcohol – bought around 17 times more from shops and supermarkets than the bottom fifth during lockdown periods in 2020.

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The average purchase per adult within the top fifth group was significantly higher than any other group at around 38 units per week, which equates to just under a litre of 40 per cent ABV vodka or four bottles of 12 per cent ABV wine per person.

Sue Taylor, head of alcohol policy for Balance, said: “The UK was already at crisis point with alcohol long before Covid, but the pandemic saw a tipping point.

“Cheap alcohol together with the terrible anxieties of Covid created a ‘perfect storm’ that resulted in millions more drinking at risky levels, problems for families and heavy use turning into dependency.

“There is strong support for more action from the Government to tackle alcohol harms in our communities. Alcohol is too cheap, too available and too heavily promoted.

“We need evidence-based action now before millions more families suffer, starting with a Minimum Unit Price to save more lives.”