Nearly one in four people are ‘problem drinking’ to help cope with the pandemic, new research has found.
A survey of 5,000 Scots using the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test - which indicates the potential risk of drinking habits - found that 30% of respondents drank to deal with stress and anxiety.
The results revealed that half have consumed more alcohol than usual, with more than a quarter thought to be at increasing risk, higher risk or 'dependence levels'. Women were more likely to be placed in all three categories, with 39% in at-risk status.
The survey was carried out by drug, alcohol and mental health charity We Are With You - formerly known as Addaction - to provide a snapshot of alcohol consumption during the pandemic.
The study has “raised concerns” that many Scots are putting themselves in danger, with some risking serious damage to their health, if increased pandemic drinking trends are not reversed.
Andrew Horne, director of We Are With You in Scotland, warned the pandemic could undo progress made in 2019 – which saw the biggest year-on-year reduction in alcohol related deaths in 40 years.
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Mr Horne said: "These are really tough times for everyone. Uncertainty and anxiety cloud our lives, while the necessary restrictions to control the virus have left lots of people socially isolated. It's no wonder many are drinking more as a way to cope.
"2019 saw one of the biggest year-on-year reductions in alcohol related deaths in the past 40 years in Scotland. Unfortunately, there's a chance that the impact of the pandemic could undo this progress.
“The number of people regularly drinking 10 plus units in a single session, often as a way of dealing with mental health issues, is concerning, as is the number of people judged to be at risk."
There have been nearly 11,000 deaths caused by alcohol recorded between 2010 and 2019, with 23,751 people in Scotland admitted to a general acute hospital with an alcohol-related diagnosis in 2018/19 - four times higher than in the early 1980s.
Official figures also show that before the pandemic lockdowns, the number of alcohol specific deaths had dropped by 10% in the last full year from 1,136 in 2018 to 1,020 in 2019 - the first substantial drop in the number of alcohol-specific deaths in Scotland since 2012.
Additional reporting by SWNS.