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B.C.’s alcohol consumption highest in two decades during first year of COVID-19

Click to play video: 'British Columbians have been drinking more since the pandemic began: report'
British Columbians have been drinking more since the pandemic began: report
With all of the impacts the pandemic has had on our lives, British Columbians are drinking more than ever. That's the finding of a new study by UVIC researchers who found alcohol consumption during the first year of the pandemic was way up. Kylie Stanton has the details – Dec 15, 2021

British Columbians drank more booze during the first year of the pandemic than they did in the past two decades, new analysis has found.

Between April 1, 2020, and March 31, 2021, provincial residents drank the equivalent of 547 cans of five per cent beer — or 104 bottles of 12 per cent wine — per person over the age of 14.

That’s 9.32 litres of pure alcohol per capita, said the University of Victoria’s Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research, which examined B.C. alcohol sales data over 20 years.

British Columbians drank more per capita than Canadians, on average, in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to analysis by the University of Victoria. University of Victoria

“It has never been easier to buy alcohol in B.C., and we know increased availability of alcohol leads to people drinking more,” Dr. Tim Naimi, director of the institute, said in a news release on Wednesday.

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“COVID-era changes to alcohol policy, such as increased hours, government support for liquor retailers to develop online stores, expanded home delivery and declaring liquor stores an essential service have certainly played a role in these increases.”

The Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research has been monitoring B.C. alcohol sales data since 2001.

Consumption of alcohol at bars and restaurants decreased, it noted, but it was “more than made up for” in private liquor stores, which accounted for 55 per cent of alcohol sales in the province.

The Interior Health region had the highest consumption rates at 13.69 litres of alcohol per capita, followed by the Island Health region at 11.54 litres. The Fraser Health region had the lowest consumption rate per capita at 7.09 litres.

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A study published by the Public Health Agency of Canada in the fall found that between Sept. 11, 2020, and Dec. 4, 2020, 15.7 per cent of Canadians self-reported an increase in alcohol consumption, while 5.4 per cent reported an increase in cannabis use.

In Alberta, a University of Calgary study found the number of Albertans hospitalized for an alcohol-related liver disease almost doubled during the first wave of the pandemic.

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