Skip Page Header

Home > Alcohol consumption during the COVID-19 lockdown. Summary of emerging evidence from the UK.

Institute of Alcohol Studies. (2020) Alcohol consumption during the COVID-19 lockdown. Summary of emerging evidence from the UK. London: Institute of Alcohol Studies.

PDF (Alcohol consumption during the COVID-19 lockdown - 8 October 2020)
PDF (Alcohol consumption during the COVID-19 lockdown - 29 June 2020)

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the UK went into lockdown on 23rd March 2020. There have been reports of increased supermarket spending on alcohol, but it is not yet known how overall alcohol sales have changed throughout this period. In addition to ongoing research with data collection, a number of surveys have been set up specifically on the issue of drinking during the pandemic.


This briefing summarises the emerging evidence base on changes in UK alcohol consumption during the lockdown, by bringing together findings from different sources. The findings of the surveys so far represent a mixed picture. One study found that 25% of adults were risky drinkers between Apr 2019 – Feb 2020 compared with 38% during lockdown in April 2020. Several other surveys have reported that between a fifth and a third of people are drinking more during lockdown. Where the proportion of people drinking less during lockdown has been reported, this is often similar to or exceeding the proportion drinking more during lockdown. It is challenging to compare across surveys because of different designs and measures of alcohol consumption, and it is possible some groups are under-represented. In particular, not enough is known about how the COVID-19 lockdown has affected harmful and dependent drinkers, and research conducted with those in alcohol treatment could help to address this.


More research is needed to understand the socio-demographics of changes in alcohol consumption (eg could COVID-19 exacerbate existing inequalities in alcohol-related harm?), how changes to alcohol consumption vary according to individuals’ pre-lockdown consumption (eg are baseline heavy drinkers especially likely to increase their consumption?), and how COVID-19-related impacts (such as furlough, redundancy, unemployment, bereavement, mental health) are associated with changes in alcohol consumption.


In the short-term, there are things survey researchers can do to monitor and investigate changes in alcohol consumption during this period. In the medium term, analysis of alcohol sales data and research with harmful and dependent drinkers and people in recovery can add to the picture from surveys, as well as an understanding of how any changes in alcohol consumption occur alongside changes in other health behaviours. Further ahead, tackling alcohol harms must be an essential part of the UK’s COVID-19 recovery plan.

Item Type
Publication Type
International, Report
Drug Type
Intervention Type
General / Comprehensive, Harm reduction, Screening / Assessment
8 October 2020
17 p.
Institute of Alcohol Studies
Corporate Creators
Institute of Alcohol Studies
Place of Publication
2nd briefing
Related (external) link

Repository Staff Only: item control page