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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.