The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has been a source of stress and concern for Canadians and a survey that Statistics Canada released Thursday suggested that it has had an effect on the alcohol and drug consumption habits of Canadians.
“New evidence suggests it may have also had an influence on the alcohol and drug consumption habits of Canadians,” Statistics Canada said in their report. “Some may have had more free time to consume alcohol and non-medical cannabis, while others may have increased their consumption in an effort to relieve boredom or fight loneliness.”
The survey found that among people who previously consumed alcohol, 24 per cent said that their consumption of it increased during the pandemic, while 22 per cent said that it had decreased.
At the provincial level, Ontario reported a 30 per cent increase in alcohol consumption, the highest of all provinces. Ontario was followed by the Prairie provinces, which reported a 27 per cent increase, then British Columbia at 22 per cent, Quebec at 17 per cent, and the Atlantic provinces at 16 per cent.
According to the survey, Canadians that have experienced stress and social isolation since the beginning of the pandemic were more likely to increase alcohol consumption. Forty-one per cent of respondents that described the situation at the start of the pandemic as very or extremely stressful said that their alcohol consumption has increased.
People who said their alcohol consumption increased cited a number of reasons, with 60 per cent said that it was due to boredom, 58 per cent said stress, 53 per cent said convenience, 37 per cent said loneliness, and 17 per cent said insomnia.
People who decreased their alcohol consumption linked it to physical distancing and lockdown measures with 58 per cent of respondents citing the decrease in opportunities for socializing.
The survey also found that 34 per cent of respondents who had previously consumed cannabis, said that their consumption increased when compared to a pre-pandemic period, while 12 per cent reported a decrease in consumption.
For people who increased cannabis consumption, the survey found that 65 per cent of respondents cited stress, 58 per cent cited boredom, and 39 per cent cited loneliness.
Among the 12 per cent of respondents who reported a decrease in their cannabis consumption during the pandemic, 64 per cent cited a dislike of effects of cannabis, 28 per cent said it was due to a decrease in social opportunities, and 16 per cent cited personal responsibility.
However not everyone has been affected by the pandemic. According to the survey, 54 per cent of respondents who have previously consumed alcohol or cannabis said that their consumption did not change.
The survey, which was conducted from Jan. 25 to Jan. 31, compared changes in the alcohol and drug consumption habits of Canadians to the pre-pandemic period.