Furlough and redundancy leads to surge in drinking

Almost half of UK adults (49%) who have either been made redundant or are in the process of redundancy are drinking more than they usually would have prior to the pandemic.

Employees who have been placed on the furlough scheme have also increased their drinking, leading to alcohol education charity Drinkaware calling for alcohol harm to be made a public health priority.  

Four out of ten (39%) UK adults who have been furloughed are drinking more than prior to the pandemic, almost twice the national average (20%).

This has risen slightly since December, although the proportion drinking ‘much more’ has decreased to 20%, down from 25% in December 2020.

It was evident from the findings that the loss of jobs and mass uptake of the furlough scheme has had an adverse effect on the amount UK employees are drinking.  Employers should ensure that people drinking more since lockdown begin to get the help and support that they need if businesses are to reverse this trend, preventing further harm being caused by alcohol.

There is a need for greater priority within public health strategies, employers have a crucial role to play in continuing to support those who struggled to balance work and family responsibilities in the pandemic. There is also a need for appropriate alcohol advice and support to be available to those out of work.

As UK lockdown restrictions continue to be relaxed Drinkaware said those affected by redundancy or furlough may need extra support.

Those who reported that the coronavirus pandemic had a larger negative impact on mental health and work-related stress were significantly more likely to report drinking more than prior to the pandemic.

The polarisation in drinking habits emphasises that a focused approach must be taken to support those who are identified as at a high level of risk of alcohol harm. Figures from the Office for National Statistics earlier this month showing that 7,423 deaths from alcohol-specific causes were registered in 2020, an increase of 19.6% compared to the previous year, there cannot be a delay making alcohol harm a public health priority and introducing targeted action and assistance.

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