The disruptions to social life during COVID-19 changed when and where Americans and Brits could imbibe over the last year. With canceled business trips, postponed weddings, virtual birthday parties, and restrictions in place for bars and restaurants, on-premises consumption of alcohol has been dramatically reduced year-over-year while purchases from shops and stores remained stable.
A look at consumer behaviors around alcohol consumption shows a quarter of Americans and Brits of legal drinking age say they drank at their usual rate over the last year. But there were also changes in consumption amid the pandemic and approximately a quarter of Brits of legal drinking age (26%) and a fifth of Americans of legal drinking age (18%) say they cut down their drinking.
Shares of people in the US and Great Britain also say they have been drinking more amid the pandemic, YouGov data finds. Among adults of legal drinking age in Great Britain, 14% say they increased their alcohol intake over the last year. Similarly, one in 11 adults of legal drinking age in the US say they have increased their alcohol consumption during the same period (9%).
YouGov examined the relationship between off-premises alcohol purchases and their rate of alcohol consumption over the past year to better understand the moments during which people were drinking more. In both the US and Great Britain, there were significant differences in the occasions people drank off-premises depending on whether they increased their alcohol intake or kept it largely at the same rate.
For example, two of the most popular occasions for drinking off-premises in the US were for staying in with their partner/spouse or as their regular/everyday drinks (such as with meals). In both of these instances, Americans of legal-drinking age who consumed more alcohol in the past year were significantly more likely than those who kept their alcohol consumption at the same rate to drink during these occasions. Americans who increased their alcohol intake were also significantly more likely to say they drank alone amid the pandemic compared with those who kept their alcohol consumption the same last year.
Other popular occasions in the US among people who increased their alcohol consumption in the past year include watching sports games and for the sake of catching up with friends, and these moments tend to be more popular among those who upped their alcohol intake than those who kept it the same.
In Great Britain, solitary drinking was big occasion among Brits who increased their alcohol consumption amid the pandemic. Two in five Brits of legal-drinking age who drank more in the past year said they drank alone last year compared with just a quarter of those who kept their alcohol consumption at their usual rate (42% vs. 25%).
British adults who drank more last year were also more likely to drink alcohol purchased off-premises as their regular/everyday drink (39% vs. 25%), as well as while they watched sports (18% vs. 14%), and for special celebrations (17% vs. 11%).
With COVID-19 restrictions varying from state to state in the US, the picture of alcohol consumption off-premises in Great Britain is drastically different. The national lockdown in the UK brought stricter rules and measures to social gatherings and non-essential trips out in public and as such, few Brits say they consumed alcohol at home for the purposes of family get-togethers or afterwork drinks with colleagues. These occasions are more popular in the US.
The data is based on the interviews of adults of legal drinking age in the United States and Great Britain. All interviews were conducted online and carried out from March 2020 to March 2021. Results are weighted to be nationally representative of each country.
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