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Balance responds to worrying figures regarding pandemic drinking

Alcohol and Covid-19: A Perfect Storm

Alcohol and Covid-19: A Perfect Storm

Posted 04/05/21

Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, is urging people to look after their mental and physical health as a worrying new study reveals drinking has worsened among many over 55s during the pandemic.

The study by psychiatrists from King’s College London has highlighted how pandemic drinking has escalated especially among 55 – 74s. See

Led by Dr Tony Rao the researchers found that lockdown led to an increase in alcohol addiction among the baby-boomer generation, with more of those aged 55 to 74 now drinking at levels ‘indicative of probable alcohol dependence’.

The experts analysed data on 366 patients aged 55 to 74 who had been referred to NHS mental health services. Half were referred before the first lockdown began and half after.

Drinking at probable dependent levels – more than 50 units a week – rose from 19 per cent to 28 per cent over this period. The number drinking four or more times a week increased from 30 per cent to 39 per cent.

The study follows alarming figures released by NHS Digital last month which showed that there were 773,523 alcohol-related admissions between April and December last year, with three quarters of these (587,501) involving patients over the age of 50. See

Sue Taylor, Acting Head of Alcohol Policy for Balance, said: “These latest findings are extremely worrying – alcohol is never a good way to cope but can make things worse.

“Before lockdown we saw that middle aged people were actually more likely than younger people to be exceeding the weekly limits, but rising consumption now could be tipping heavy drinking over into dependency for some people.

“An even greater concern is that it appears to be those people who were already drinking the most who are now drinking more, potentially putting their health at even greater risk of a range of alcohol related conditions.

She said: “Whether or not you’ve felt your drinking creeping up during lockdown, now is a really important time to be looking after ourselves and our families, and that includes trying to stick within the Chief Medical Officer guidelines of drinking no more than 14 units per week.”