Sharp rise in males misusing alcohol during pandemic

Frequency and consumption volumes have also increased among men

Sheena Horgan

Two-thirds of men are drinking more to cope with the stress of the pandemic, a new survey shows.

The figure compares to 58 per cent of the male population who said they were using alcohol as an emotional prop two years ago.

Research by the alcohol-misuse charity, Drinkaware, published today (June 15) also showed the majority of men (57%) said they were drinking weekly, compared to 48 per cent of women.

Frequency and consumption volumes have also increased among men, with 58 per cent admitting to binge drinking, and one in five were binge drinking more than four times in a month.

However, just more than one-third (35%) of men have reported making small positive changes to their drinking behaviour during the Covid-19 crisis.

The findings of the study — carried out over a 30-day period between march and April this year — have been released to coincide with the start of International Men’s Health Week, which is held every year to heighten awareness of preventable health problems for males of all ages.

Researchers found that men were more than twice as likely to report binge drinking four or more times in the past 30 days (21%), compared to 10 per cent of women. The national average was 15 per cent.

Men were more likely to drink at home alone (40%), compared to 32 per cent of women. The national average was 36 per cent.

But the survey also found that 27 per cent of men would like to drink less, compared to 22 per cent of women.

Commenting on the research, Drinkaware Chief Executive Sheena Horgan said it clearly showed that compared to women men were drinking more during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Men already fared worse in terms of frequency and volume of drinking,” Horgan said.

“Now they are exhibiting consistently hazardous and potentially harmful drinking habits.

“Hazardous drinking is where consumption exceeds the recommended guidelines, so that’s the 58 per cent who were binge drinking, as well as those who were drinking more than 8.5 pints a week, and those not having at least two drink-free days.”

The impact on the increase in alcohol consumption on male health may not be known for several years, Horgan cautioned.

“We know from previous pre-Covid-19 research (Drinkaware Index 2019) that 29 per cent of men felt they were likely to have future problems as a result of their drinking levels, and this figure is bound now to rise if current drinking levels are not redressed,” she added.

International Men’s Health Week, Horgan continued, provided an opportunity to focus on men’s physical and mental wellbeing.

“We need to empower men to explore healthier coping strategies, and healthier habits that don’t involve alcohol, and encourage them to seek support, advice and tips at www.drinkaware.ie, www.hse.ie and www.mhfi.org/,” she said.

peter.doyle@imt.ie

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