More Than Half a Million Young Adults Started Smoking to Help Cope With Stressful First Lockdown

Efforts to reduce the number of smoking Brits appear to have been partially undone last year as many young adults took to smoking – as well as to over-drinking alcohol – to help them cope with the stress and boredom of the first lockdown. The Sun has the story.

The number of 18 to 34 year-olds sparking up increased by 25% – an extra 652,000 people – a worrying study revealed.

And an extra 4.5 million people, mainly women, developed drink problems, researchers from University College London found.

The study showed a 40% rise in problem drinking across all age groups. Women were most affected, with a 55% increase.

Younger people, particularly those from poorer backgrounds, were most likely to start smoking.

Dr. Sarah Jackson, from UCL, said: “Lockdown was a period of great stress for many people and we saw rates of smoking and problem drinking increase among groups hardest hit by the pandemic.

“People mistakenly believe smoking relieves stress, so some may have used tobacco or alcohol as a means of coping with increased stress or boredom.” …

Last year, the Office for National Statistics found the number of people who smoked had fallen dramatically over the past decade – from nearly 20% in 2011 to just under 14%.

In particular, the habit had fallen out of fashion among 18 to 24 year-olds.

Worth reading in full.

Lockdown Caused Higher Number of Alcohol-Specific Deaths in Scotland in More Than a Decade in 2020

New figures from Scotland show that an increase in issues relating to alcohol caused by lockdowns hasn’t been unique to England, with the most alcohol-specific deaths recorded north of the border in more than a decade in 2020. The Guardian has the story.

There were 1,190 alcohol-specific deaths in Scotland in 2020, an increase of 17% from 2019 and the highest number registered since 2008 when 1,316 people died, according to figures published by the National Records of Scotland (NRS).

The tally of alcohol-specific, rather than alcohol-related, deaths excludes those only partially attributed to alcohol.

After annual increases between 2012 and 2018, the number of alcohol-specific deaths fell by 10% in 2019, which experts took as early evidence of the success of minimum unit-pricing for alcohol, which was introduced in May 2018 in order to tackle Scotland’s chronically unhealthy relationship with alcohol and is currently fixed at 50p a unit.

More than two-thirds of last year’s deaths were of men, and almost one in three were of people in their 50s and 60s. Inverclyde and Glasgow City had the highest rates over the past five years, and the NRS calculated that the death rate in the most deprived areas was 4.3 times the rate in the least deprived areas in 2020.

Responding to the figures, Alison Douglas, the Chief Executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland, said…

“Scotland has made good progress in addressing the problems we have with alcohol by introducing policies like minimum unit-pricing which is showing promising results. Yet the impact of the pandemic [that is, lockdown] threatens to undermine this progress. Many people, particularly heavier drinkers, have reported that they have increased their drinking during the last 18 months. The effects are felt most by those living in our poorest communities, who are eight times more likely to die due to alcohol.” …

The NRS data also revealed a decrease of 3% in probable suicides registered in Scotland in 2020, to 805, but showed that between June and September there were 28% more suicides than usual for those four months. Last year 71% of suicides were of men, with deprived areas of the country experiencing the highest rates.

Worth reading in full.

Nearly One Million More People in England Addicted to Alcohol as Result of Lockdowns

Nearly one million people in England became addicted to alcohol as a result of Covid lockdowns, official data suggests. MailOnline has more.

Government polling before the pandemic estimated 1.5 million adults drank at least 50 units every week — the equivalent of three pints or nearly a bottle of wine every night.

But this jumped to just shy of 2.5 million this summer, which experts have blamed on the endless cycle of virus-controlling restrictions.

Dr Tony Rao, a world-renowned expert on alcohol misuse in older people at King’s College London, warned the impact of lockdowns had been “devastating”.

Alcohol charities said the data showed drinking in older people has reached a level of crisis “that is happening now”.

NHS guidelines recommend men and women do not drink more than 14 units a week.

Regularly drinking over the guideline amount can lead to dependence and health problems, including liver disease, heart disease and cancer.

It comes after Public Health England (PHE) figures last month revealed deaths directly caused by alcohol soared by 20% during the first year of the pandemic.

Dr Rao, a clinical research fellow, told MailOnline: “The impact of the Covid pandemic [he means the lockdowns] on alcohol use has been devastating.

“The latest data, taken together with the highest number of alcohol-specific deaths on record, is a stark warning for the Government.”

Worth reading in full.