Under COVID-19 rules, people line up waiting for their turn to enter a Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ) outlet in Montreal, a provincially regulated alcohol outlet. (CBC)

COVID-19: At home, bored, stressed, some Canadians drinking more

As emergency health requirements mean many businesses are closed, and people asked to stay home a new survey finds alcohol consumption has increased.

A poll commissioned by the Canadian Centre for Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA)  shows that Canadians are drinking more lately.

The survey showed about on average about 18 per cent of respondents said they had increased drinking alcohol since social distancing and stay at home or self-isolation recommendations. The survey found 94 per cent of respondents said they were staying at home more often now. Some 12 per cent said they were drinking less.

Cannabis use was up by  six per cent of respondents, but four per cent said they had reduced their use.

Responding to the poll conducted by Nanos Research, people said lack of a regular schedule (54%), boredom (49%), and stress (44%) were reasons for drinking more.

“This data validates what we have all been saying. Substance use increases during times of stress and anxiety” Rita Notarandrea, CEO at CCSA.

Some 25 per cent of the youngest demographic (age 18-34) reported an increase, while 21 per cent of the middle group (35-54) reported an increase, while only 10 per cent of the oldest age group (54 and up) reported they were drinking more. Some 12 percent of respondents said they were drinking less.

Quebec Premier Francois Legault at a March 24 COVID-19 news briefing explained why the SAQ outlets were still open, adding ‘sometime a glass of wine can relieve stress” ( CBC)

Catherine Paradis is a senior researcher and policy analyst with the CCSA. In a press release explains another factor in the increase, “ “The Canadian drinking culture is one where alcohol use serves as a boundary between weekday and weekend, work and leisure — it marks a ‘time out,  with the ongoing threat of COVID-19, these boundaries have become blurred”.

She also noted that a disrupted routine and isolation can lead to loneliness and anxiety about the future and so drink more than they normally do.

In British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec where emergency orders have closed most businesses, the provincial alcohol outlets have remained open as ‘essential businesses’. Premier Francois Legault of Quebec said some people need alcohol, and depriving them might lead to problems involving the health care system, and added, to reduce stress, “sometime a glass of wine may help”.

Quoted in the Canadian Press, Calgary therapist and social worker Jeff Sturgeon said those battling alcohol addictions said the current situation of isolation and distance increases loneliness and boredom and magnifies negative thought patterns saying “ “It kind of amplifies that narrative that perhaps is the underlying piece of the addiction.”

The CCSA said it is providing resources to reduce risks associated with increased alcohol and cannabis use, including a warning about they can affect the immune system and increase susceptibility to the SARS-Cov-2 virus.

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