Alcohol Purchases in Great Britain Unaffected by the COVID-19 Home Confinement

alcohol purchase
The researchers in this study completed a controlled interrupted time series analysis of the impact of COVID-19 confinement using the purchase data from 23,833 British households.

Sales of alcohol did not significantly increase during the home confinement due to the novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic in Great Britain. These findings were published in Alcohol and Alcoholism.

Researchers from Newcastle University compared household alcohol purchases between 2015 and 2018 with those made in January through July 2020 according to the Kantar Worldpanel (KWP) database.

Prior to household confinement, in early January of 2020, the number of grams of alcohol purchased was similar compared with 2015-2018 (difference, 15.6; 95% CI, -14.0 to 45.2 g).

During the first 3 weeks of confinement, 41% (95% CI, 39%-46%) more alcohol was purchased, which was equivalent to 178 g per 100 households per day (95% CI, 163-193 g). Specifically, beer sales increased by 49%, spirits by 45%, and wine by 31%.

After adjusting for on- and off-license shop purchases, the increase of purchases was only 0.68% (95% CI, 0.65%-0.71%), equating to a decrease of beer purchases of 40% and increase of wine by 15% and spirits by 22%.

Beer purchases were observed to be decreased by 0.178% (95% CI, -0.40% to 0.045%) at the start of 2020 and increased by 0.127% (95% CI, 0.012%-0.241%; P =.030) at the start of confinement. After confinement, the purchase of beer decreased.

The excess of off-license purchases were estimated as 25.6% when the Prime Minister gave advice on the pandemic to 40.6% at the start of home confinement.

This study may have been limited by using purchase rather than consumption data. However, the study authors speculated that as the purchase rates declined 3 weeks following the confinement, this behavior was not likely to be consistent with stock piling behavior and more consistent with consumption.

These data suggested, that after accounting for the type of shop, alcohol purchases did not appear to increase during the home confinement due to the COVID-19 pandemic. These findings were consistent with data from HM Revenue and Customs duty receipts. (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs is a non-ministerial department of the UK Government responsible for the collection of taxes.)

Despite no compelling evidence of increased alcohol purchases, individuals have self-reported consuming more alcohol. Further study is needed to interrogate the discrepancy between alcohol sales and personal perceptions.

Disclosure: An author declared affiliations with industry. Please refer to the original article for a full list of disclosures.


Anderson P, Llopis E J, O’Donnell, Kaner E. Impact of COVID-19 confinement on alcohol purchases in Great Britain: Controlled interrupted time-series analysis during the first half of 2020 compared with 2015–2018. Alcohol Alcohol. 2020;agaa128. doi:10.1093/alcalc/agaa128