Organisations are being urged to help employees who are struggling with pandemic-related problem drinking, as a study has revealed a third of British adults are now drinking more alcohol than before the crisis.
The research from the Department of Behavioural Science and Health at the University College London found employees’ drinking behaviours have changed over the course of the pandemic, with just under a fifth admitting to consuming more units per drinking session.
Furloughed men were three times more likely to have increased heavy, episodic drinking – defined as six units per session – than those who continued to work during the pandemic, it found. Furloughed women were twice as likely as those in work to drink six or more units per session.
Young women and those living alone in lockdown were also more likely to have turned to drinking excessively, as were those who had seen a decline in their mental health.
Men turned to alcohol due to the challenges of childcare, the negative experience of social distancing and deteriorating finances and mental health , it found.
The findings prompted One Year No Beer, a campaign group that supports people to change their drinking habits, to encourage employers to help staff who could be struggling with problem drinking.
Founder and CEO Ruari Fairbairns said: “Lockdown has been extremely challenging for the nation, causing the most radical changes to work, home and social life – more than society has ever known. If the nation faces future lockdowns, then it is hugely important that workers, particularly those on furlough or similar schemes, are offered sufficient help and support to cope with alcohol use and anxiety.
“The bonuses for both employer and employee are huge – people who take control of their relationship with alcohol are more productive and healthier.”
Melissa Oldham, UCL research fellow, said: “Lockdown has caused stress about work, health, finances and caring responsibilities. Stress can have a polarising effect on drinking with some responding maladaptively by drinking heavily and others abstaining altogether. This study identifies groups that may require targeted support in future lockdowns.”
An alcohol misuse treatment centre recently said it had seen a “staggering” rise in alcohol abuse among senior employees during the pandemic, with around one in 10 people being treated having a senior leadership role in an organisation.
Earlier this year figures from the Office for National Statistics revealed that a record number of Britons had died from alcohol-linked problems.