Are Brits really drinking more during lockdown?

A recent YouGov poll has revealed that three quarters of people are either drinking as much as normal, or more, since bars and pubs shut last month .

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The closure of pubs and bars last month certainly hasn’t dented the UK’s love of drinking, according to YouGov, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re drinking more.

Retailers are scrambling to catch up with soaring online orders for wine, beer and spirits. UK wine merchant Roberson told the drinks business that last week’s sales value was over double the previous weekly record set at Christmas. 31Dover, meanwhile, said sales surged by 400% on the evening of 23 March, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a ban on public gatherings of more than two people and said people would only be allowed to leave their homes to buy essential items or exercise.

The World Health Organisation was even prompted to warn that drinking is an “unhelpful coping strategy” for anyone feeling more stressed or anxious while they’re unable to lead a normal life.

According to the YouGov’s study, there has been no change in the level of “consideration” for buying alcohol between first quarters of 2020 and 2019 (see chart).

In another survey published on 24 March, YouGov asked people whether their drinking habits had changed during their time in lockdown.

Most (57%) said their consumption levels have stayed about the same as normal. Granted, 17% of people said they are drinking more, but the vast majority of those said they have only stepped up their drinking moderately, while just 1% said they are drinking “much more.”

This is compared to nearly a quarter of people surveyed (24%), who said they are actually drinking less.

When it comes to breaking down the data, it is young people aged 18-24 who have changed their habits the most.Young people are more likely to both be drinking more (25%), and drinking less (28%) when compared to the other age groups.

Close to two thirds (64%) of people who claim to have not changed their drinking habits said they had purchased an alcoholic drink in a pub in the last four weeks, with the most popular reasons being catching up with friends (21%) and celebrations (10%).

The most popular reasons for purchasing alcohol from supermarkets among those who are drinking the same is staying in with their partner or spouse (22%) and a regular everyday drink (13%).

The data seems to suggest that, while alcohol purchasing has shifted straight to retail and consumers are stocking up, that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re drinking it all at once.

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