Lockdown alcohol sales fall by 6% in Scotland

New research led by Public Health Scotland and involving Professor Jim Lewsey and Public Health colleague Professor Daniel Mackay shows that alcohol sales in Scotland fell by 6% in 2020 as a result of COVID lockdown restrictions.

Photo of glass of beer being poured

The study found that the spread of COVID-19 and corresponding lockdown measures reduced alcohol sales and people’s ability to socialise, leading to lower-than-expected consumption based on pre-COVID-19 figures. However, average weekly alcohol sales during the period studied, which stood at 17.5 units per adult in Scotland, still remained in excess of the UK Chief Medical Officers’ guideline of 14 units per week.

Beer contributed the most to the fall in alcohol sales per adult (23% decrease in Scotland) given the popularity of the beverage which already accounts for one third of all alcohol sales in Scotland, England and Wales. However, per-adult sales of wine increased by 4% in Scotland and 8% in England and Wales. Only sales of spirits remained constant throughout this period.

Daniel Mackay 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."

The study, titled "The impact of COVID-19 and related restrictions on population-level alcohol sales in Scotland and England & Wales, March–July 2020", concluded: "Improved understanding of how the COVID-19 restrictions have affected consumption across different population sub-groups is now needed, given the evidence that drinking at hazardous levels may have increased for some."

Find out more about this study

First published: 14 March 2018

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