Advertisement

British Columbians drinking more alcohol during COVID-19 pandemic, study finds

Click to play video 'UVic study shows alcohol consumption in B.C. up during pandemic, raising health concerns' UVic study shows alcohol consumption in B.C. up during pandemic, raising health concerns
While many regular activities dropped off during the pandemic lockdown in B.C., one saw a huge increase - drinking at home. A study by the University of Victoria found booze sales in March jumped 40 percent over the year before. And as Kylie Stanton reports, that's raised concerns about the impact it's having on our health and home-life. – Dec 10, 2020

While many activities dropped off during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in B.C., one appears to be on the rise — drinking alcohol.

An analysis by the University of Victoria’s Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research found a rise in alcohol consumption along with a significant increase in alcohol purchased in private liquor stores.

Click to play video 'Restaurants sound alarm over new government restrictions on alcohol sales' Restaurants sound alarm over new government restrictions on alcohol sales
Restaurants sound alarm over new government restrictions on alcohol sales – Sep 9, 2020

The research, which used sales data from the BC Liquor Distribution Branch and population data from BC Stats, noted a 40-per-cent jump in sales in mid-March when COVID-19 measures were put in place.

Story continues below advertisement
A graph highlighting alcohol consumption in B.C. restaurants and bars as well as private and government-owned liquor stores. University of Victoria

The first phase of the pandemic, which lasted from mid-March to mid-May, saw the largest increase in alcohol consumption, which then declined during subsequent phases, including the third phase which kicked off in the summer, perhaps due to a decrease in tourists visiting the province.

Not surprisingly, alcohol consumption in bars and restaurants, which historically account for around 15 per cent of alcohol consumed in the province, dropped off a cliff in April and May, researchers found, as establishments were closed for in-person dining.

Drinking at bars and restaurants rebounded in June and July to about half of last year’s totals.

Read more: More Manitobans buying alcohol during pandemic: MBLL

In July, the most recent month with sales data, alcohol consumption peaked at about 50 drinks per month, which is almost two drinks a day.

Story continues below advertisement

That level of consumption exceeds what is suggested by current guidelines, which recommend no more than 10 standard drinks per week for women and 15 for men.

Click to play video 'Coronavirus 2nd wave stressing you out? Here’s how to cope' Coronavirus 2nd wave stressing you out? Here’s how to cope
Coronavirus 2nd wave stressing you out? Here’s how to cope – Oct 13, 2020

Private liquor stores appear to have been the beneficiary of the rise in drinking. Researchers found year-over-year sales at private stores rose 18.5 per cent between March and July while sales at government-operated stores rose eight per cent.

Researchers attribute the disparity between private and government-operated stores to the fact that private stores offer home delivery or list their products on third-party delivery apps.