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Europeans drank less alcohol in first months of the pandemic, survey shows according to Medical News Today (MNT)

New research explores the drinking habits of Europeans during the first few months of the pandemic.

  • On average, European drinkers surveyed from 21 countries reported reducing their alcohol consumption during the first months of the pandemic.
  • A decline in the frequency of heavy episodic drinking events likely drove the decrease in overall alcohol consumption.
  • Drinkers from the United Kingdom stood out for reporting an increase in overall alcohol consumption.
  • The average consumption reported by Irish respondents remained unchanged.

Researchers gathered data from almost 32,000 alcohol users from 21 European countries from late April to late July 2020. The responses indicated that drinking in Europe declined on average during these first months of the pandemic.

In their paper about the survey, which appears in the journal AddictionTrusted Source, the researchers suggest that the decrease in heavy episodic (or binge) drinking episodes likely drove the reduced alcohol consumption.

Their work adds to a body of research looking at alcohol consumption around the globe during the pandemic. This research has delivered conflicting findings.

For instance, one studyTrusted Source conducted in Bergen, Norway, following the first 6 weeks of a lockdown designed to slow the spread of COVID-19 found more than half of respondents reported hazardous drinking behavior, and about 1 in 13 people reported increased alcohol consumption.

Another cross-sectional online survey queried more than 800 U.S. adults in May 2020 and found 60% reported drinking more than they had before the pandemic.

Yet another survey, noted in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism, found that of the 2,102 German participants, 37.7% reported no change in their alcohol drinking behavior, 19.4% reported drinking less, and 34.7% reported drinking more alcohol during lockdown. An additional 8.2% reported drinking no alcohol.

Dr. Michael Fingerhood, associate professor of medicine and public health at Johns Hopkins University who studies addiction, feels confident that drinking in the U.S. has increased during the pandemic. “Without a doubt,” he told Medical News Today.

Study found drinking increased in the UK

The survey asked participants whether their frequency of drinking, the quantity of alcohol consumed, and the frequency of heavy episodic drinking, had changed during the past month.

The survey also asked them to report their alcohol habits before the pandemic, their pre-pandemic monthly net household income, and whether they had experienced financial difficulties or other pandemic-related stressors.

The researchers found that, on average, Europeans reduced their alcohol consumption during the first months of the pandemic. The most significant average decreases occurred in Albania, Finland, Greece, Italy, Slovakia, and Spain.

The average consumption remained unchanged in Ireland. Additionally, researchers reported drinking frequencies and quantities consumed per occasion increased considerably in the U.K. However, the frequency of heavy episodic drinking events did not increase there.

Researchers credit the decrease of alcohol consumption by Europeans overall with a decline in the frequency of heavy episodic drinking events.


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