CSO reveal around 20% of adults have increased alcohol intake during Covid-19 crisis

CSO reveal around 20% of adults have increased alcohol intake during Covid-19 crisis

Wildly varying drinking habits have taken hold in Irish homes since the Covid-19 outbreak, as the mood of the nation falls far lower even than after the financial crash.

A report from the Central Statistics Office on the social impact of the virus in April found the percentage of men increasing their alcohol intake was almost 21%, while just over 23% of women did similar.

However, a further 26% of men reported a decrease in alcohol consumption, compared with just under 9% of women.

A spike in smoking and junk food eating was also apparent, with 30.5% reporting an increase in tobacco consumption since the introduction of Covid-19 restrictions.

Women were considerably more likely to increase consumption of junk food, at over 54% compared with almost 37% of men.

More than half aged 70 or over reported that their frequency of exercising had decreased since being asked to cocoon in their homes, the CSO report found.

Loneliness and worry have been major contributors to the spike in alcohol use. Over four in 10 who were very concerned about household stress from confinement reported an increase in alcohol consumption, while just over three in ten, who said they felt lonely at least some of the time in the past four weeks, reported an increase in drinking.

The survey of 1,362 people included topics such as personal well-being, personal concerns related to the virus, and changes in consumption behaviour and working life since the onset of the Covid-19 crisis.

Households with children are most likely to be negatively financially affected by the pandemic, with 23% reporting major or moderate negative financial impact.

There were also discrepancies between men and women when it came to observing social distancing guidelines, the CSO report found.

More than 88% of women said their compliance with government advice was high, compared with 72.5% of men.

The unprecedented restrictions are also having a major impact on the collective mental health of the nation, the report found.

The percentage of respondents that reported feeling ‘downhearted or depressed’, ‘nervous’ or ‘lonely’ increased substantially in April, the CSO said.

A third of respondents felt ‘downhearted or depressed’ at least some of the time in the four weeks prior to their interview, compared to under one in seven in 2018.

Those aged 18-34 who felt they did not have somebody to talk to or help in April was over four times higher than the corresponding figure in 2018, increasing from 3.4% to 16%.

In relation to the impact on working life, almost half who were employed in the first quarter of 2020 and who were not employed in April unsurprisingly rated their overall life satisfaction as low, compared to almost 27% of those employed.

Almost 39% of those not currently working reported a major or moderate negative impact on the household's ability to pay bills.

Statistician Claire Burke said: “The combined findings of both surveys serve to highlight how the people in Ireland have been impacted by the Covid-19 crisis in terms of well-being.

"Overall life satisfaction is now lower than in 2018 but it is also substantially lower than in 2013, when Ireland was still suffering the effects of the 2008 financial crisis.

"For example, in relation to the topic of wellbeing, we know that in April 2020, only 12.2% of respondents rated their overall life satisfaction as high, a reduction of almost three-quarters on the 2018 rate of 44.3%. The corresponding rate in 2013 was 31.4%.

"In both 2013 and 2018, approximately 60% of respondents rated their satisfaction with personal relationships as high. This fell to 42.4% in April 2020."

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