What is the lockdown impact on alcohol intake, gambling and porn use?

One of the key questions is soon to be answered by researchers, who will track lockdown impact on alcohol intake, gambling habits and porn watching

On 23 March, a now infamous date, is the day that the UK went into lockdown. With any reasonable analysis of ONS figures estimating 55,000 deaths (as of moment of writing, 13 May), we are living through a public health crisis that touches on every facet of every life. Globally, we are undergoing a highly nuanced experience of stress. Whilst at first, the lockdown was tentatively ruled at three weeks, now there is no certainty of an end.

This left people across the UK in all sorts of difficult situations, with those living individually experiencing a stark kind of aloneness, NHS hospital workers suffering an imminent fear of death, and those without economic security unable to survive without a job.

To find out what impact this has had on people’s behaviour, Dr Valerie Voon from the University of Cambridge and Prof Henrietta Bowden-Jones, Director of the National Problem Gambling Clinic, London, have launched an online survey, HabiT – Habit Tracker – asking about changes in habits during lockdown, specifically quantifying alcohol, smoking, and online use of gambling, gaming and pornography. The habit tracker survey is available at online. All responses will be anonymous.

How can you participate?

The survey is short, only taking 10 minutes to complete. The researchers are keen to hear from both those people who do not consider themselves to be vulnerable or exhibit problem behaviours and those who have struggled in the past or are struggling now.

To counter-balance, the research team also offered five tips for healthily surviving lockdown:

1. Keep active: exercise outdoors and take part in online exercise workouts
2. Keep in touch with people socially online – try FaceTime, Skype or Zoom so that you see people
3. Maintain some regular structure: sleep, wake, work
4. Don’t spend too much time looking at news
5. Use this as an opportunity to try something new – try baking, learning a new language, writing that novel you always dreamed of writing

What do the researchers expect to find?

Dr Voon commented:

“We expect to see an increase in these behaviours across the UK in response to the unprecedented circumstances we find ourselves in.

“In many cases, these changes will be people’s strategies for coping with the anxiety and stress caused by the pandemic and lockdown and, we hope, won’t have a long-term impact if the behaviour can be controlled.

“For some people who might already have been struggling with or have a history of addiction these increased habits could prove problematic. The same goes for those people who find themselves in difficult circumstances, for example having lost their job or facing financial difficulties, or are struggling to cope with the lockdown. These more vulnerable individuals may find their behaviour has a more marked longer lasting effect, triggering an alcohol relapse, for instance, or reigniting a gambling addiction.”

Survey respondents may also take part in CrusH, an alcohol avoidance online training game being developed which can be accessed as part of the survey.

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