Excessive drinking dips in Quebec but boredom, stress from COVID-19 remain factors: poll


Excessive drinking is on the downswing in Quebec and at its lowest since the beginning of the COVID-19 health crisis but boredom, stress and more time are behind why some people are consuming more alcohol, according to a new poll.

Quebecers were surveyed about their alcohol consumption as part of the fourth CROP poll commissioned by Éduc’alcool during the pandemic. It was conducted from May 13 to 17 and 1,000 adults responded.

The latest findings show that 70 per cent of drinkers never drank more than the recommended limit in April. Meanwhile, 10 per cent of respondents exceeded the limit only once.

In a statement, Éduc’alcool said those numbers represent a “significant drop since the last survey in November 2020, and it indicates that excessive drinking is close to what it was at the very beginning of the pandemic.”

“After a phase of major change that upended our lives and affected our behaviour, we seem to be stabilizing and seeing a little improvement,” said Hubert Sacy, director general of Éduc’alcool.

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Drinking frequency also fell, according to the poll. The proportion of Quebecers who drank between three and five days per week dropped to 15 per cent from 19 per cent.

Meanwhile, the portrait of alcohol consumption in the province has otherwise not changed much since the start of the health crisis. Eight in 10 Quebecers reported no changes in their drinking in May while 17 per cent reported an increase.

Who is drinking more and why during the pandemic? That depends.

The CROP poll has found that people who saw a change in their employment or who are feeling “greater psychological” pandemic-induced effects are drinking more. Those aged 18 to 54 and those earning between $40,000 to $80,000 are also consuming more alcohol.

Of those who reported an increase in drinking, 25 per cent said they had more alcohol on each occasion. Meanwhile, 86 per cent said they drank more often — compared with 76 per cent last November.

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Stress, boredom and having more time are cited as the main reasons for a rise in drinking. They are the same as given in previous polls during the pandemic, according to Éduc’alcool.

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Among those who drank more, 39 per cent pointed to boredom or to have something to do — a jump from 27 per cent in November 2020. About 30 per cent cited anxiety and stress while 24 per cent pointed to having more time to drink.

Some Quebecers aren’t drinking as much during the pandemic as they used to, though.

The poll found 13 per cent of respondents are consuming less alcohol. Of them, 94 per cent said they were drinking less frequently while 33 per cent said they were drinking less on each occasion.

Fewer social outings, the closure of bars and restaurants and health are behind why some adults cut back.

Of them, 57 per cent cited fewer opportunities to drink such as less socializing and business closures due to the pandemic while 19 per cent say they decreased their drinking habits for health reasons. Meanwhile, four per cent cited their budget for cutting back.

READ MORE: Quebecers are smoking more cannabis during lockdown, study finds

— with files from The Canadian Press

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