It's official! Covid-19 is making the Irish drink less booze

Also smoking less and eating less junk food says Ireland's official number crunchers

Conor Ganly

Reporter:

Conor Ganly

Email:

news@leinsterexpress.ie

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Irish People are drinking and smoking less and eating healthier according to new research from Ireland's statistics office.

The number crunchers at the Central Statistics Office (CS) have just published the Impact of COVID-19 Survey called Well-being and Lifestyle under Level 5 Restrictions. The second lockdown appears to have had a bigger impact on healthier lifestyles than tougher restrictions in March and April.

it says that in April 2020, approximately five weeks after COVID-19 restrictions had been introduced, survey respondents were asked how, if at all, their consumption of alcohol, tobacco and junk food and sweets had changed since these COVID-19 restrictions were introduced.  These questions were repeated in the new November survey.

For each consumption item (alcohol, tobacco and junk food and sweets) respondents could answer “Increased”, “Decreased”, “No change” and could also indicate that they did not partake in the behaviour.  Please note that respondents of the Social Impact of COVID-19 survey were all aged 18 years and over.  Results outlined below are limited to those that partake in the behaviour.

The proportion of respondents reporting that their alcohol consumption was higher than before the COVID-19 crisis remained relatively unchanged between April and November (22.2% and 21.1% respectively). However, more than one in four (26.8%) of November respondents reported that they had decreased alcohol consumption compared with approximately one in six (17.2%) respondents in April.  
 
When comparing alcohol consumption to pre-COVID-19 levels, almost one in four (24.7%) female respondents to the November survey reported that their alcohol consumption had Decreased, compared with just 8.6% of female respondents to the April survey.  The November and April rates for male respondents reporting a decrease in alcohol consumption were 28.8% and 26.0% respectively.

The proportion of male respondents that said their alcohol consumption had Increased since the onset of the COVID-19 crisis has dropped from 20.9% in April to 18.0% in November while the equivalent rates for female respondents were relatively unchanged (23.4% and 24.3%).

The CSO analysis by age of the respondents to the April and November surveys shows that a higher proportion of November respondents in each age group reported that their alcohol consumption was lower than before the onset of the COVID-19 crisis.  In November 35.5% of those in the 18-34 age category reported that their consumption had Decreased compared with 22.9% in April.

Although the overall proportion of respondents reporting that their alcohol consumption was higher than before the COVID-19 crisis remained relatively unchanged between April and November, analysis by age shows that a higher proportion of older respondents reported an increase in alcohol consumption in November when compared with April. In November, 18.2% of respondents aged 70 and over reported an increase in alcohol consumption compared with 7.4% in April.

The survey also looked at tobacco consumption
 
In November, a greater proportion of respondents that consume tobacco products reported that their tobacco consumption was lower than pre-COVID-19 levels when compared to the April rate (17.4% versus 8.6%).  There was a small decrease in the percentage of respondents that said their consumption had Increased, 30.5% in April to 27.4% in November. 

In November, female respondents were more likely to report an increase in tobacco consumption when compared with male respondents (29.8% and 24.2%).  Female respondents were also more likely to report that their current tobacco consumption is lower than before the COVID-19 crisis. Almost one in four (23.0%) of female respondents reported that their current tobacco consumption is lower than before the COVID-19 crisis compared with less than one in ten (9.5%) of male respondents.  

Reductions in consumption of junk food and sweets were also revealed.

Overall the percentage of respondents reporting an increase to the CSO n the consumption of junk food and sweets since the onset of the COVID-19 crisis has fallen from 45.4% in April to 41.3% in November.  

The percentage of female respondents reporting this increase fell from 54.3% in April to 46.8% in November, whereas the percentage of male respondents reporting an increase in this consumption type remained relatively unchanged (35.6% in April and 35.0% in November).

Analysis by age shows that respondents in the 18-34 age group have the greatest fall in proportions reporting an increase in junk food and sweets, falling from 69.0% in April to 50.3% in November.  As age increases the proportion of respondents reporting an increase in junk food consumption decreased. Just under 23% of respondents aged 70 years and over said that their junk food consumption was higher than before the COVID-19 crisis.