According to recent studies conducted in Canada and the U.S., alcohol and drug consumption has significantly increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) conducted a survey that showed 23.3% of respondents reported drinking more alcohol compared to before the pandemic. The data analysis revealed that changes in alcohol use were associated with age, household income, a person’s living situation, anxiety, and feeling lonely or depressed.
The same survey also showed the connection between changes in employment status and modified behaviours in alcohol consumption. This increased consumption is due to a blurring of work and leisure hours with more people working at home and the popularization of cocktail hour during a lockdown. Further, a shift from on-premise to off-premise drinking could result in a shift from alcohol-related public disturbances to higher levels of domestic violence. Although it is currently unknown if changes in alcohol consumption during the pandemic will persist once the virus has subsided, the current situation is having immediate negative health effects on Canadians, including a higher rate of injuries.
It will be important to continue monitoring alcohol consumption as physical distancing restrictions are eased, as well as the long-term effects of the pandemic on drinking patterns and associated health outcomes. However, in the short-term, public health policies and primary care physicians should offer support to people whose alcohol consumption has increased, and in particular to those people with increased anxiety and depression.
The Standard, a U.S.-based insurance company, recently conducted a study that highlights a significant increase in alcohol and other substance use affecting 49% of American workers. The research shows the pandemic is increasing the strain on workers resulting in growing mental health issues and substance use. And this increase is clearly affecting productivity on the job more now than before the pandemic. The Standard’s survey results also showed for the 49% of workers who reported struggling with some level of addiction, the number of workers reporting lower productivity or missed work due to substance use or addiction has nearly doubled since 2019. About one-third (36%) of respondents reported that substance use has affected their work more since the pandemic began. Furthermore, one in five participants (19%) reported at least weekly usage of alcohol, drugs or prescription medication. Notably, the study results revealed that alcohol remains the most common substance used by workers, with 1 in 10 participants also reporting struggles with prescription medication during the past year.
Such increases in alcohol and drug consumption are a cause for concern according to a recent article published by HRReporter. The article suggests that the recent rise in alcohol and drug use may increase workplace testing since excessive consumption of drugs and alcohol can affect the quality and quantity of work, increase absenteeism and create potential safety issues. This issue isn’t just in the U.S. A Canadian survey conducted last summer found that one out of four respondents consumed more alcohol than they would have before the pandemic. A similar proportion of cannabis users reported consuming the drug more frequently since the onset of the pandemic.
Education Key to Safe Workplace
Education is the best starting point to help employees avoid violations of drug and alcohol policy. A training solution that is easy to use, provides meaningful learning using content created by industry experts, and is regularly refreshed constitutes an operator’s best defence against increased costs and reduced productivity and wages.