Charity survey reveals people are turning to alcohol in a bid to relieve stress.
Over a quarter of Scots are drinking more than usual during lockdown, sparking fears of a health crisis once coronavirus containment measures are eased.
A new survey for Alcohol Focus Scotland and Alcohol Change UK revealed that 27% of Scots reported drinking more then usual since late March, increasing to 33% among those who were already heavy drinkers (defined as drinking seven or more units on a single occasion).
Dealing with stress was cited by around one fifth of all respondents as a reason for drinking, rising to 51% among those who are drinking more than usual. Almost half (48%) of this group admitted the were concerned about their alcohol consumption.
Meanwhile, almost one fifth of all respondents (18%) reported feeling concerned about the amount a friend or family member is drinking during lockdown.
More than half (54%) of those who reported drinking more than usual during lockdown have already taken steps to manage their drinking, and 59% plan to do so once lockdown eases. Almost two-fifths (37%) of those drinking more than usual expect to drink less as pubs and restaurants reopen, however a quarter (24%) expect their drinking to increase further at this time.
Alison Douglas, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland said: “While it is encouraging to hear that people who have been drinking more during lockdown are planning to take action to reduce their intake, it can be hard to change habits once they are established.
“Stress was identified as a key factor for many and unfortunately these stresses aren’t necessarily going to go away with the easing of lockdown restrictions. Many people are worrying about going back to work, their children returning to school, or concerned about using public transport. Some may not have a job to return to, creating additional uncertainty at an already difficult time.
“It can be tempting to have a drink to ‘take the edge off’ our worries but alcohol is a depressant that can increase our anxiety and disrupt our sleep, making it more difficult to deal with stress. Our alcohol use may become part of the problem, taking a toll on our mental and physical health and damaging our relationships.”
The charity is now calling for increased provision of alcohol services across Scotland to ensure help is available to anyone who needs it.
Ms Douglas added: “Alongside adequate service provision it is crucial that our national recovery effort builds on the good work we have started in addressing Scotland’s unhealthy relationship with alcohol. By addressing how readily available alcohol is and how heavily it is marketed we can improve the lives of thousands of Scots by preventing problems developing in the first place.”
Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol and Drugs, who provide support for anyone concerned about someone else’s drinking or drug use, said they have seen a four-fold increase in people contacting their helpline since the beginning of lockdown. The number of calls from people concerned about family members’ drinking has also risen by 56% over this period.
Chief executive Justina Murray said: “Lockdown has brought tremendous pressures on families affected by their loved ones drinking, with alcohol consumption increasing, consumption within the home increasing, and many of the usual support mechanisms not available to families during this period.”