Liquor store sales boom as drinking increases during pandemic

The stresses and strains of the coronavirus pandemic has a lot of Canadians reaching for the bottle.

A recent study found a quarter of Canadians aged between 35 and 54 said they are drinking more since being at home due to COVID-19.

The report conducted by Nanos for the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction found that 21 per cent of Canadians between the age of 18 to 34 had increased their alcohol consumption, while those over 55 reported their drinking to have increased by 10 per cent.

The effects of homeschooling children, working from home or being unemployed are all having an effect on the nation's alcohol consumption.

The majority of people who reported an increase in their drinking, 51 per cent, said they did it due to a lack of regular schedule, 49 per cent stated boredom, and 44 per cent stress. One-fifth of people said it was due to loneliness.

While the Nanos survey was conducted in late March and early April, it appears not much has changed.

Liquor stores in the Okanagan report an increase in business, and while none were forthcoming with hard numbers, staff in several stores reported being far busier than normal. One liquor store employee said sales had "dramatically spiked" since the pandemic.

From the jokes about working at home in your pyjamas with a drink, to comic YouTube videos of homeschooling parents teaching fractions with wine, alcohol is a cultural component of the coronavirus pandemic.

"It's something people are using to manage their mental health and to make them feel better," Canadian Mental Health Association Vernon and District executive director Julia Payson said. "Alcohol is in so much of our media and culture in coping with the changes."

While alcohol and substance abuse treatment has been impacted by COVID-19, as groups cannot meet up, the direct impacts of the new increase in alcohol consumption are yet to be seen, Payson said.

With the normal things that bring people joy not currently happening, and everything from visiting friends and family to playing in a local sports team on hold, that void left in people's lives are being replaced.

"The long term impact will be more the question... how do we make that not turn into something long-term?" Payton said. "What can happen is... our brain starts replacing the joy we get from one thing with the satisfaction of a substance."

Payton stresses it's incredibly important during these times to stay connected to friends and family and for people to take care of themselves and each other and not be afraid to ask for help.

The Canadian Mental Health Association has a variety of resources related to COVID-19 here.

The confidential Interior Crisis Line is available 24/7 at 1-888-353-2273.


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