This report collates data on alcohol consumption and alcohol-related harm in England throughout the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and compares it to data from previous years.
Changes to alcohol consumption in 2020
The total volume of duty-paid alcohol for the year of the pandemic (2020 to 2021) was 1.2% less than the year before the pandemic (2019 to 2020), despite the closure of on-trade premises during national lockdowns.
In 2020 to 2021, duty-paid wine and spirits increased compared to 2019 to 2020 (+8.9% and +7.3% respectively), while cider and beer decreased (-16.7% and -14.0% respectively).
Data from a consumer purchasing panel shows that between 2019 and 2020 (before and during the pandemic), volume of alcohol off-sales increased by 25.0%.
Changes to alcohol-specific morbidity and mortality in 2020
In 2020 (during the pandemic), rates of unplanned admissions to hospital for alcohol specific causes decreased by 3.2% compared to 2019 (before the pandemic). This is likely related to reduced admissions for mental and behavioural disorders due to alcohol use.
Unplanned admissions for alcoholic liver disease were the only alcohol specific unplanned admissions to increase between 2019 and 2020. This increase was 13.5%, and from June 2020 onwards, there were significant and sustained increases in the rate of unplanned admissions for alcoholic liver disease.
There were rapid decreases in the rate of alcohol specific admissions that coincided with the start of the pandemic (around February 2020).
In 2020, there was a 20.0% increase in total alcohol specific deaths compared to 2019. We also saw significantly higher rates from May 2020 onwards (33.0% of deaths occurred in the most deprived group).
The upward trend in total alcohol specific deaths was brought about by increases in deaths from alcoholic liver disease.
Alcoholic liver deaths accounted for 80.3% of total alcohol specific deaths in 2020 and saw a 20.8% increase between 2019 and 2020.