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Over One In Four Kiwi Drinkers Consuming Less Alcohol Under Covid-19 Shutdown, Survey Finds

A survey of more than 11,000 people across nine countries has found:

  • 85% of New Zealand drinkers are drinking the same or less alcohol during shutdown with over one in four (26%) saying they are drinking less or have stopped
  • Of the 12% of Kiwis drinking more under shutdown, 71% plan to revert to their old drinking habits
  • Socialising and dining out at restaurants or bars ranks within the top five things missed about normal life
  • Concern remains for the 5% of New Zealand drinkers who said their drinking has led to more problems

During lockdowns, the vast majority of New Zealand drinkers (85%) are maintaining their previous levels of drinking or consuming less alcohol, a survey of more than 11,000 people across nine countries has found.

When the coronavirus shutdowns began, photographs of empty alcohol shelves in supermarkets around the world led to fears that people would drink more when they were confined to their homes and buying alcohol at a lower cost than they would normally pay in restaurants and bars.

Now a YouGov survey for the International Alliance for Responsible Drinking (IARD) of 11,678 adults in Australia, South Africa, Mexico, France, United States, Germany, United Kingdom, Japan, and New Zealand has revealed that most people have consumed the same or less during shutdowns.

Over one in four New Zealand drinkers (26%) said they were drinking less or had stopped during shutdown, compared to almost one in three (30%) globally.

Globally, drinkers aged under 35 years have been the most likely to give up drinking completely during this period, with more than one in seven (15%) abstaining from alcohol while they have been unable to socialise at restaurants or bars. Of the minority of New Zealand drinkers (12%) who were drinking more during shutdown, most (71%) said they were planning to revert to their previous drinking habits once lockdowns have eased and bars and restaurants reopen.

However, concern remains for the 5% of New Zealand drinkers who said their alcohol consumption had led to them experiencing more problems because of their drinking under the coronavirus restrictions.

International Alliance for Responsible Drinking President, Henry Ashworth said: “Despite reports of people rushing to stock up on alcohol in supermarkets, pictures of empty shelves, and early increases in off-premise alcohol sales, today’s polling indicates that the vast majority of people in these nine countries consumed the same or less alcohol during shutdowns.

“It is also encouraging that many intend to maintain these moderate habits as restaurants and bars, which have been sorely missed as a vital part of many people’s social wellbeing, begin to open.

“Some people are clearly struggling with their alcohol consumption during shutdowns and it is important that these individuals seek support from their doctor or specialist organisations that offer the chance to talk about their drinking. Having consulted with a doctor, for some people, the betterchoice may be not to drink at all during this difficult time.”

Socialising and dining out at restaurants or bars ranks within the top five things missed about normal life. Overall, the majority of respondents in nearly all countries believe that the current restrictions during shutdowns are just about right.

However, there are clear divisions in South Africa, where an alcohol ban was put in place during shutdown. Almost half of respondents in South Africa (46%) felt that regulations surrounding the sale and purchase of alcohol in their country were too restrictive. This has resulted in drinkers obtaining alcohol during shutdown from other sources*, with 45% saying they made their own homemade alcohol and 29% acquiring homemade alcohol from others. This suggests that drinkers were accessing and consuming unregulated and potentially toxic alcohol drinks, and breaching shutdown rules to do so.

In Mexico, where heavy restrictions on alcohol were put in place in some local states, almost one in four people felt regulations in their country were too restrictive (24%).

Sadly, both Mexico and South Africa have seen deaths or illness from unregulated and illicit alcohol during their shutdowns. In Mexico, over 150 people died in May alone after consuming illicit alcohol. These deaths happened in local states where alcohol had been banned during shutdown.

Commenting on the growth of illicit alcohol in these markets, Henry Ashworth said:

“Unregulated and illicit alcohol is bad for government, bad for economies, and potentially very bad for health. Although most governments have looked at ways that legal and regulated producers could stay open during this period, a few countries have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by implementing heavy restrictions that are leading to unintended consequences, such as driving consumers to unregulated sources of alcohol.”


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