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alcohol health alliance uk
Sue Taylor

Sue Taylor, Head of Alcohol Policy for Fresh and Balance


Health experts react with alarm to findings of new alcohol study

Balance together with doctors expressed alarm at a major new study showing that those already at risk of harm from drinking bought significantly more alcohol during Covid-19 lockdowns – with households in the North buying more.

The study, published today (Wednesday 19th January) in international scientific journal PLOS ONE, could help to explain why 2020 saw the biggest jump in alcohol-related deaths in the UK in the last two decades. The analysis also showed that the increase in purchasing was less pronounced in Scotland and Wales compared to England, which could be down to the Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) policy currently in place in both Scotland and Wales – which has already been shown to reduce supermarket and store purchases of alcohol, particularly amongst some of the heaviest-drinking households.

Academics from Newcastle University and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Applied Research Collaboration (ARC) 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 the lockdown period between March and July 2020.

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% ABV vodka or four bottles of 12% ABV wine per person.

2020 was a record year for alcohol deaths. The latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) data reveals there were 8,974 registered deaths from alcohol-specific causes registered in the UK in 2020 - an 18.6% increase compared with 2019 and the highest year-on-year rise in 20 years.

Read more here.