The study from the University of Glasgow’s Institute of Health and Wellbeing, based on data from more than 27,000 people across the UK, revealed the number of people feeling psychological distress increased to almost a third during the first month of lockdown, with women and younger people particularly affected.
Overall binge drinking increased from 10.8 per cent in 2017-19 to 16.2 per cent in April 2020, while the proportion of people who reported drinking four or more times a week rose from 13.7 per cent to 22 per cent.
Binge drinking remained stable in the youngest age group, but increased in those aged 25 and over and rose more among women, white ethnic groups and those with degree-level education.
However these figures may well decrease once the initial upheaval of lockdown passes, Dr Niedzwiedz said.
“It’s important to monitor what’s happening in terms of drinking behaviours, over the course of the next few months.
“It might just be that there’s an initial shock and people are dealing with it by drinking and then things go back to their normal levels.”
Moreover, the proportion of people who reported consuming five or more drinks during a typical day when drinking decreased from 13.6 per cent to 5.6 per cent during lockdown, most evidently in the youngest age group.
Cigarette smoking also decreased during lockdown, from 15.1 per cent in 2017-19 to 12.1 per cent in April this year, with the decrease most apparent in the younger age groups and among men.
Dr Richard Piper, Chief Executive of Alcohol Change UK told the Telegraph: “The pandemic and resulting recession mean this is a very stressful time, and many of us turn to alcohol when we’re feeling stressed, anxious or low.”
“Our research from July, conducted as lockdown eased, suggests that for many the move towards heavier drinking isn’t a short term change.
“On top of that, while lockdown has created the conditions for many more people to drink heavily, the harm caused by alcohol isn’t new. Last year one in ten people admitted to hospital were alcohol dependent.
“More than 200,000 children in England alone live with an alcohol dependent parent or carer, and they’re at an increased risk of eating disorders, suicide and more.
“A problem like this can’t be dealt with by under-funded local treatment services and disconnected public health campaigns – we need the government to put together a proper strategy to end this totally avoidable suffering. As we start to rebuild following the pandemic, we need this strategy to get back on our feet.”