Stress Binge

Bosses urged to help workers with pandemic-related problem drinking – HR News


An organisation supporting people to change their relationship with alcohol is urging bosses to help workers struggling with pandemic-related problem drinking.

The call from One Year No Beer (OYNB) follows a study by UCL (University College London) looking at how the coronavirus lockdown affected drinking patterns, with factors including living alone and furlough associated with increased consumption.

According to the research, by the Department of Behavioural Science and Health, a third of Brits who took part in the survey reported drinking more than before the pandemic, with just under a fifth admitting to consuming more units per drinking session.

The study also found furloughed employees’ drinking patterns have been greatly impacted, with furloughed men being three times more likely to increase their heavy episodic drinking, compared to those still in the workplace.

However, many men turned to binge drinking due to the challenges of living with children, the negative experience of social distancing and deteriorating financial circumstances and psychological wellbeing.

Furloughed women were also found to be twice as likely to increase heavy episodic drinking – defined by more than six units per session. Young women and those living alone in lockdown were more likely to turn to drinking excessively, as were those who had suffered a decline in their psychological welfare.

Ruari Fairbairns, Founder and CEO of One Year No Beer, a leading alcohol behavioural change programme, believes business owners should be encouraged to offer alcohol-related help and support for those who have been struggling with their physical and mental wellbeing in these difficult and emotional times.  

He says: “Lockdown has been extremely challenging for the nation, causing the most radical changes to work, home and social life – more than society has ever known. If the nation faces future lockdowns, then it is hugely important that workers, particularly those on furlough or similar schemes, are offered sufficient help and support to cope with alcohol use and anxiety.

“The bonuses for both employer and employee are huge – people who take control of their relationship with alcohol are more productive and healthier. The One Year No Beer community can help play a role in that by offering support, guidance and help to anyone concerned about their own or others’ drinking. And it is not all about abstinence, it’s about empowering people to break old habits and build new ones.”

Melissa Oldham, UCL Research Fellow, states: “Lockdown has caused stress about work, health, finances and caring responsibilities. Stress can have a polarising effect on drinking with some responding maladaptively by drinking heavily and others abstaining altogether. This study identifies groups that may require targeted support in future lockdowns.”

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