Public Health Scotland has today published two studies on the impact of initial COVID-19 restrictions on alcohol sales and consumption.

The sales study found that during the first four months of the COVID-19 pandemic and related restrictions, there was a 6% reduction in the total volume of pure alcohol sold per adult in Scotland when compared to the same months in previous years. Despite the overall reduction in alcohol sales in this period, the weekly average of 17.5 units in Scotland remains in excess of the UK Chief Medical Officers' guideline of 14 units per week.

The consumption study used self-report data to explore changes to drinking behaviour and how particular population sub-groups were affected during the first three months of the pandemic. In Scotland, overall self-reported units of alcohol per week reduced by 5% (0.8 units). Although this reduction was not statistically significant, it is consistent with the findings of the sales study. Amongst other changes in drinking behaviour, there was an increase in drinking alone in those from single adult households, households with three or more adults, and those in full time education.

SHAAP welcomes a reduction in alcohol sales, but these studies demonstrate that consumption levels during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic remained at dangerously high levels, and there are some concerning behaviour trends. Noting that the sales figures underestimate the true picture due to data gaps, SHAAP would like to see provision of data on sales of alcohol made compulsory. SHAAP would also like to emphasise that there is an ongoing need to improve alcohol treatment and recovery services, which have faced challenges due to COVID-19 restrictions.