The UK’s leading liver health charity, the British Liver Trust, is urging people to drink responsibly as in-store sales of alcohol rocket since lockdown began. Alcohol misuse increases a person’s risk of developing liver disease, which is the biggest killer of 35 to 49-year olds in the UK.
Data released by the Office of National Statistics revealed that in-store sales of alcohol in March 2020 were 31% higher in terms of volume sales than in March 2019, following the closure of pubs and restaurants.
Alcohol consumption in the UK has increased over the past five decades, which has shifted from moderate strength beer sold in pubs to strong lager, cider, wine and spirits sold in supermarkets to be drunk at home.
Since lockdown begun at the end of March, the British Liver Trust estimates that there has been a significant increase in at-home drinking as more people are staying at home. The World Health Organization recently recommended that turning to alcohol to cope with lockdown is an ‘unhelpful coping strategy.’
Vanessa Hebditch, Director of Policy at the British Liver Trust, says: ‘We know this is an extremely stressful time for many of us in the UK but drinking too much alcohol is not the answer. Many of us drink alcohol to relax, especially when we’re feeling stressed or unhappy, but this habit can be counterproductive.
‘Alcohol is the leading cause of liver disease in the UK and drinking more than the recommended amount significantly increases your risk of liver damage. Drinking too much alcohol can also have a negative effect on the quality of our sleep, on our mood and, of course, our physical health.
‘This is a really important time to be looking after ourselves, both mentally and physically. There are lots of other, much healthier ways, to deal with stress, like taking exercise, having a relaxing bath or listening to your favourite music. Fostering healthier habits for stress management is a much better coping strategy for the long term.’
The British Liver Trust recommends that people drink no more than 14 units of alcohol per week (the government guidelines) and have two to three consecutive alcohol-free days each week.
By drinking responsibly, it will also take pressure off the health service. Up to 70% of A&E attendances at weekends are related to alcohol – placing an additional burden on the NHS and health services, which are expected to be extremely busy over the coming months.
Vanessa says: ‘While it’s too early to say for sure whether alcohol-related hospital admission rates change during the virus outbreak, we can all play our part in helping the NHS by avoiding unnecessary alcohol-related A&E trips wherever possible.’
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