Binge drinking and frequent alcohol drinking increased more among women than men during the coronavirus lockdown, according to a new study.
The new research, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health and led by the University of Glasgow’s Institute of Health and Wellbeing, found that women were drinking more, and with increased frequency than they did before lockdown.
The researchers interviewed over 2,700 people across the UK in four survey waves between 2015 and 2020, looking at trends in mental health and health behaviours before and during the initial stages of lockdown, as well as the differences observed across population subgroups.
The findings suggest psychological distress increased one month into lockdown, and adverse use of alcohol generally increased, particularly amongst women. The researchers suggested health-related behaviours such as alcohol consumption could change due to increased stress during lockdown and that adequate measures needed to be implemented to mitigate the negative impacts on health.
Dr Claire Niedzwiedz, who led the study, said: ‘Understanding the health impacts of lockdown is important, as further periods of physical distancing are likely to be necessary in many countries for some time, especially as the risk of further waves of infection remains.
Binge drinking, classed as six or more drinks in a single sitting, increased from 10.8% in 2017-19 to 16.2% during lockdown, as did the proportion of people reporting drinking four or more times a week (13.7% to 22.0%).
Dr Niedzwiedz added: ‘These impacts may disproportionately affect specific population subgroups, with concerns that young people, women and disadvantaged groups may be at greater risk. The increases in psychological distress and alcohol use in the UK highlight the need to consider how the potential health harms associated with lockdown measures can be mitigated, especially for those who are most at risk.’
The researchers suggested women were disproportionately affected by the pandemic due to unequal power relations in society, with women more likely to experience the additional burden of childcare and more likely to work in sectors worst affected by the pandemic.