New research reported in the media recently suggests that alcohol sales increased by 20% in March as people built up their supplies in preparation for being at home.
However, the British Liver Trust is warning people against turning to alcohol during these unprecedented times and is encouraging them to look for other coping strategies.
Many of us drink alcohol to relax, especially when we’re feeling stressed or unhappy, but this can be counterproductive. Drinking too much alcohol can have a negative effect on the quality of our sleep, on our mood and, of course, our physical health. In the long term, it also increases our risk of developing liver disease, certain cancers, cardiovascular disease, and stroke.
The World Health Organisation has recently warned that alcohol is an ‘unhelpful coping strategy’ for the possible stress and isolation during the coronavirus outbreak.
Vanessa Hebditch, Director of Policy and Communications at the British Liver Trust, says: “We know this is an extremely stressful time for many of us in the UK but drinking too much alcohol is not the answer. We know that as well as creating habits that can lead to liver damage, alcohol is also a depressant, affecting our mental health, so it is actually likely to increase anxiety in what is already a taxing time.
"Try to stick to the Government guidelines of drinking no more than 14 units of alcohol per week and having two to three consecutive alcohol-free days each week.
“This is a really important time to be looking after ourselves, both mentally and physically. There are lots of other, much healthier ways, to deal with stress, like taking exercise, having a relaxing bath or listening to your favourite music. Fostering healthier habits for stress management is a much better coping strategy for the long term.”
In the UK, one in five adults drink in a way that could harm their liver, and around 7,700 people die from alcohol-related liver disease each year – that’s around 20 every day.
“We can all play our part”
There’s also another good reason we should keep check on how much we drink. Up to 70% of A&E attendances at weekends are related to alcohol – placing an additional burden on the NHS and health services, which are expected to be extremely busy over the coming months.
Vanessa says: “While it’s too early to say for sure whether alcohol-related hospital admission rates change during the virus outbreak, we can all play our part in helping the NHS by avoiding unnecessary alcohol-related A&E trips wherever possible.”