Studies of alcohol in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic published

Published: 16 February 2021

Studies of alcohol in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic published

Results from a study, led by PHS in collaboration with the University of Glasgow to investigate alcohol sales during the pandemic, have today been published. The study specifically investigated the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and related restrictions, on alcohol sales in Scotland during its first few months.

Woman holding a glass of wine

The study used weekly alcohol sales data to estimate the impact on population level alcohol consumption in Scotland, England & Wales. The data include both sales through the off-trade (supermarkets and off-licences) and the on-trade (pubs, clubs and restaurants) during the period January 2017 to July 2020, allowing the researchers to describe how weekly sales in the first half of 2020 differed from the average across the years 2017-2019.

It found that the pandemic and related restrictions were associated with a 6% reduction in the total volume of pure alcohol sold per adult in Scotland and in England & Wales. Increases in per adult off-trade sales (28% in Scotland and 29% in England & Wales), did not fully replace the loss of on-trade sales.

Daniel Mackay, Professor of Public Health Informatics and one of the report authors, said: “These results show that after taking into account underlying trends, seasonal patterns and factors such as household income and other drink types, alcohol sales in Scotland fell by 6% as a result of COVID lockdown restrictions.”

Public Health Scotland will continue to monitor and evaluate Scotland’s alcohol strategy, as well as the on-going impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the measures taken to control the spread of the virus, on alcohol sales and consumption.

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First published: 16 February 2021