Covid-19 lockdown drinking poses chronic health crisis

Stressed mother

A boom in chronic diseases in the future is feared as more women turn to alcohol to cope with lockdown stress.

Researchers have found that women more often than men used booze during the first wave of the Covid-19 virus.

That trend is expected to continue as women are more likely to work from home, bear most of the burden of home schooling, while managing the household and struggling with less money.

Several studies focussing on people’s alcohol drinking habits during lockdown found women were drinking more often – raising the danger of mental health issues, cancer, liver, and heart disease, along with the potential for a public health related disaster.

The university findings showed that young middle-class women, and those in middle age, were more likely to resort to alcohol to raise their spirits during the national lockdown.

Women’s experiences of lockdown – with school closures, social distancing measures and workplace closures – resulted in a greater psychological impact.

Women were more likely to suffer the mental health impact of loneliness due to social distancing, the loss of social circles, and reduced family contact with children and grandchildren. They are also more likely to worry over elderly parents isolated in care homes during the Coronavirus crisis.

More women work in the sectors badly hit by the Covid-19 lockdown including the hotel, retail, leisure, tourism sector, and the arts, and women were more likely than men to have lost their jobs or been selected for furlough and face reduced income.

Easing of the national lockdown restrictions that allowed children to return to school increased fears for the children’s wellbeing in the classroom.

Experts say middle-aged women suffer more from the negative effect of alcohol consumption during and after menopause as their bodies become less able to tolerate it at this time of life.

They are more likely to suffer alcohol’s detrimental impact on their mental health and even small increases in consumption are known to increase the risk of breast cancer.

A study by the drinks industry-sponsored charity Drinkaware found overall more Britons are drinking four times a week or more. The figure increased from a pre-lockdown level of 16 per cent in 2019 to 19 per cent in 2020.

More women were drinking during lockdown on four days a week with a rise from 12 to 16 per cent.

They report that the over 55s drinking more during the Covid-19 pandemic accounted for the increase and they were more likely to suffer the long-term health impact, and make an existing health condition worse.

They also found more women drinking above the recommended level of 14 units per week, as well as being slightly more likely to suffer from the risks of alcohol.

More women than men admitted to drinking more due to the anxiety and stress associated with parenthood, with forty-two per cent of women and 32 per cent of men citing this.

The University of East Anglia study found people were drinking more alcohol, taking less exercise, eating less fruit and veg, and eating more sugary snacks and junk food as a result of Covid-19 pandemic lockdown measures.

Experts warn these habits increase the risk of chronic disease in the population resulting in a public health crisis over the next decade.

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Christine Humphreys

Christine Humphreys

Chris Humphreys is the co-founder of The Alcohol-Free Shop and AlcoholFree.com. She was a journalist for more years than she cares to remember. Ex-wife of an alcoholic, enthusiastic amateur musician and a passionate dog lover.

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