MONTREAL -- Are you drinking more or less as a result of COVID-19 self-isolation?

According to a study of Quebecers’ drinking habits, as many as 82 per cent report they have not increased -- and some have even reduced -- their alcohol consumption in the last month.

The poll was conducted by CROP on behalf of Éduc'alcool on April 4 and 5, and asked 15 questions about drinking to 1,412 Quebecers:

  • 69 per cent said they have not increased their alcohol consumption
  • 14 per cent said they have reduced their intake
  • 18 per cent said they drank more than usual (15 per cent said they increased the amount of alcohol they consumed on occasion, while almost 4 per cent said they drank more frequently)

"Although initial data from Europe, Australia and the United States suggested… that self-isolation would lead to a dramatic increase in alcohol consumption, Quebecers are generally wise, careful and disciplined, even if they don't give up having a drink for fun,” said Hubert Sacy, executive director of Éduc'alcool, an organization that encourages moderation when it comes to drinking. 

The portrait of Quebec alcohol use is far from perfect, added Sacy, because “there are still too many drinkers who exceed the recommended limits.” 

Éduc'alcool recommends a limit of two glasses per day for women and three for men, with two days per week without any alcohol at all.

The organization led a campaign to encourage moderation in the early days of the pandemic.

In the poll, Quebecers who reduced their alcohol consumption said they did so because they generally drink in bars and restaurants, or because they are social drinkers who only consume with relatives or friends. They also mentioned a fear of shopping in stores, that they are cutting back on spending, or that they don’t want to or can’t go out to get alcohol.

Those who have increased their alcohol consumption mention, among other things, that they have more time to drink, that they are bored and that it reduces their stress or anxiety.

Among those who increased their consumption are:

  • people under 35 years old
  • the wealthy 
  • those who are more psychologically affected by the situation (depressed, stressed or sad since the start of isolation) 

The increase or decrease in and of itself doesn’t show the full picture of the situation in the province, said Sacy.

“If a person who had two drinks per week now has four or five, it wouldn’t really pose a problem,” he said, saying there’s more cause for concern in “someone who already exceeds the recommended limits and remains an excessive consumer, even if they have not increased his consumption.”

That why it’s also important to get an overall picture of the last month:

  • 31 per cent said they did not drink alcohol at all (26 per cent don’t drink at all usually)
  • 14 per cent drank between one and three times (24 per cent usually);
  • 18 per cent drank once or twice a week (24 per cent usually);
  • 24 per cent drank three to five times a week (usually 20 per cent);
  • 14 per cent drank six or seven days a week (6 per cent usually).

As many as 72 per cent of Quebecers are complying with low-risk alcohol consumption levels, the poll also showed. That’s the same as data from February, said Éduc'alcool.

Here are five tips from Éduc'alcool to follow regarding alcohol consumption during self-isolation:

  1. Count your glasses;
  2. Respect the recommended limits (two drinks per day for women and three for men) with two alcohol-free days per week;
  3. Alternate alcoholic drinks and non-alcoholic drinks;
  4. Do not use alcohol as self-medication to treat stress or feelings of isolation. Instead, develop interactions with others and ask for help if necessary;
  5. Regular alcohol abuse weakens the immune system, so reduce consumption if you are a heavy drinker.

“While having a drink can be very enjoyable, it cannot be overemphasized that respecting low-risk alcohol consumption levels is essential. The vast majority of Quebecers have heard us,” said Sacy, adding that moderation is important now more than ever.