The COVID Hangover: Health impacts of alcohol consumption during the pandemic
The COVID Hangover report from the Institute of Alcohol Studies (IAS)/HealthLumen and a further report from the University of Sheffield demonstrate the impact of pandemic-related changes in alcohol consumption on health outcomes.
Both studies estimate substantial increases in alcohol-related harms and pressure on the NHS, even if drinking patterns were to return to pre-pandemic patterns from 2022 onwards.
If the increase in heavier drinkers’ consumption persists in the longer term, then the picture is considerably worse, with both studies estimating hundreds of thousands of additional cases of alcohol-related diseases and thousands of extra deaths as a result. Both studies find that the increases in alcohol harm disproportionately falls on the least well-off in society, further widening inequalities.
IAS head of research, Dr Sadie Boniface, appeared on BBC News and LBC to discuss the findings, and AHA chair Sir Ian Gilmore was interviewed by LBC and Talk Radio following the release.
Increase in alcohol-specific deaths in Scotland
The latest figures published by National Records of Scotland (NRS) indicate that there was a slight increase in alcohol-specific deaths between 2020 and 2021. The number of deaths in 2021 is 5% higher than 2020, equating to 55 extra deaths, and the highest total number since 2008.
Of those who died from alcohol-specific causes, two-thirds were male. Health inequalities were also identified as a risk factor, with deaths attributed to alcohol 5.6 times more likely in the most deprived areas of Scotland compared with the least. Julie Ramsay, a statistician at NRS, highlighted that this is considerably higher than the deprivation gap for all causes of death (1.9).
The AHA has responded to the latest release with a comment from Sir Ian Gilmore, who said: ‘It is heart-breaking to hear that the number of deaths linked to alcohol harm has increased again in Scotland … Without a UK wide alcohol strategy to ensure that evidence-based, lifesaving policies are introduced to reduce our alcohol consumption and urgent investment is poured into treatment services, there is no hope for turning this tragic trend around.’
Vicky Pattison: Alcohol, Dad and Me
In a new Channel 4 documentary, Vicky Pattinson speaks about her relationship with alcohol, and the devastating impact that addiction and alcohol has had on those around her. Through sharing her moving story, Vicky helps to reduce the stigma around alcohol harm and addiction.
Production of Vicky Pattinson: Alcohol, Dad and Me was supported by Nacoa, who provide information and support for everyone affected by a parent’s drinking through a free, confidential telephone and email helpline.
APPG on Liver Disease and Liver Cancer
On Tuesday 12 July, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Liver Disease and Liver Cancer met to take evidence from Professor Steve Ryder (consultant in hepatology and gastroenterology, Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust) and Steve Rodrigues (liver disease patient advocate) on the liver disease public health emergency in England.
The session highlighted rising mortality rates, fuelled in part by increased alcohol consumption, and the disparities in care and outcomes. The APPG have written to Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of NHS England, calling for urgent action to deliver the pending review of adult liver services.
Find out more on the British Liver Trust blog.
AHA job vacancy: communications and campaigns manager
The Alcohol Health Alliance have a fantastic job opportunity for a new communications and campaigns manager. The successful candidate will design and deliver communications and influencing campaigns, highlighting the need for better alcohol policy amongst the media, stakeholders, and the public. For contract details and a job specification, please visit our website.
AHA Full Members Meeting
Alcohol Health Alliance UK
6 September, 1.30–3.30pm
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information
Roundtable discussion on the implications of the new alcohol duty system on alcohol harm and public health
APPG on Alcohol Harm
13 September, 2–3pm
Please RSVP to email@example.com if you would like to attend or have any questions.
Tackling Stigma in Action: Visibility, Education and Language
8 November, 9.30am
MCA Annual Symposium on Alcohol & Health
Medical Council on Alcohol
Meet the Members
Every month, we speak to a member of the AHA to find out more about what they do and how their organisation is working to end alcohol harm.
Today we meet Megan McGarrigle, youth engagement coordinator at Alcohol Focus Scotland since January 2021.
How does your organisation help to reduce alcohol harm?
Alcohol Focus Scotland (AFS) is Scotland’s national charity working to prevent and reduce alcohol harm. We do this by promoting effective and cost-effective alcohol policies at local, national and international level.
More recently, AFS has been engaging directly with children, young people, and those in recovery to learn more about the impact alcohol has on their lives and communities.
What inspires you most in your job?
It has been great to see young people share their thoughts, views, and opinions about alcohol and the impact it has on their lives and communities.
Young people are experts in their own lives and have been able to share with us where they are seeing alcohol promoted, the impact COVID-19 has had on their drinking habits, and what they feel can be done to reduce the harm they and others are experiencing. It feels like now, more than ever before, young people are engaging in ways to make changes in their communities and country. I am excited to see what we can do to support young people to make changes around alcohol and reduce the harm it causes for future generations.
What change do you think would make the biggest difference in reducing alcohol harm?
I believe that implementing the WHO’s Three Best Buys would make the biggest difference in reducing the alcohol harm experienced by children and young people.
Restricting alcohol marketing would mean that young people would not be as widely exposed to alcohol and that products would not be designed and promoted to appeal to young people using youth culture.
Making alcohol less available gives young people the chance to grow up in environments that support alcohol-free childhoods.
Reducing affordability may deter them from purchasing and consuming at higher levels and change the drinking behaviours of young people.