The vast majority of Quebecers have either not increased or else cut their drinking since the start of self-isolation         

Montreal, April 7, 2020The very first study of Quebecers’ drinking habits since the start of self-isolation, conducted by CROP on behalf of Éduc’alcool on April 4 and 5, is encouraging. A significant majority (82%) of Quebecers said they had either not increased their drinking (69%) or reduced their alcohol intake (14%) over the course of the last month. Only 18% said they had been drinking more than usual: 15% had more alcohol each time they drank, while close to 4% drank more frequently. In addition to this excellent news, the vast majority of people in the province are following the low-risk drinking guidelines. Clearly, in Quebec, moderation is always in good taste.

“Although initial data from Europe, Australia and the United States suggested we should expect, and even fear, that self-isolation would lead to a dramatic increase in alcohol consumption, Quebecers are proving to be generally wise, careful and disciplined, while continuing to enjoy the occasional drink. They definitely deserve a round of applause. But there’s still room for improvement, since too many people continue to exceed the recommended limits. The results show how important our prevention efforts are and encourage us to keep up our awareness campaigns, even—and especially—during a pandemic,” said Hubert Sacy, Director General of Éduc’alcool.

Brand-new data

Éduc’alcool’s purpose in commissioning the poll was to measure the impact of a campaign to promote moderation that it had run in the early days of the pandemic. It also took advantage of the opportunity to paint a portrait of drinking habits in Quebec under conditions of self-isolation.

Quebecers who reduced their alcohol intake said they did so because they generally drink in bars and restaurants, or because they are social drinkers who only drink when they’re with friends or relatives. They also mentioned that they are afraid of shopping in stores, they are less inclined to drink, they are cutting back on spending, and that they can’t or don’t want to go out to get alcohol.

Those who have been drinking more mentioned, among other things, that they have more time to drink, that they are bored, and that it relieves stress and anxiety.

People who increased their drinking are mainly young (under 35), wealthy, and those who are feeling the psychological effects of the situation more deeply (depressed, stressed or sad since the start of isolation).

“However, an increase or decrease in drinking, in and of itself, doesn’t give us a complete picture of the situation,” added Hubert Sacy. “If a person who used to have two drinks a week is now having four or five, that’s not really a problem. There’s more cause for concern with someone who was already drinking more than the recommended limits and continues to drink excessively, even if that person is not drinking more than they were before.”

For a more accurate picture of what’s happening, we need to examine the data relative to the low-risk drinking guidelines.

A quick look at drinking habits

  • Almost 7 out of 10 Quebecers (69%) have not changed their drinking habits since self-isolation, regardless of whether they are drinkers or non-drinkers.
  • 14% have reduced their drinking: 7% by a little and 7% by a lot.
  • 18% said they have increased their drinking: 15% by a little and 3% by a lot.
    • Among the 18% who are drinking more, 83% (15% of all respondents) are drinking more often and 20% (4% or all respondents) are drinking more on each occasion.
  • Drinking frequency has changed in the last month, as follows:
    • 31% drank no alcohol at all (compared to 26% usually)
    • 14% drank 1-3 times (24% usually)
    • 18% drank 1-2 times a week (24% usually)
    • 24% drank 3-5 times a week (20% usually)
    • 14% drank 6-7 times a week (6% usually)
  • The percentage of people who follow the low-risk drinking guidelines has not changed during the pandemic, as compared to Éduc’alcool data from February 2020:
    • 72% are following the guidelines completely (72% in February)
    • 11% exceeded the limits only once (12% in February)
    • 8% exceeded the limits 2-3 times (7% in February)
    • 4% exceeded the limits once a week (4% in February)
    • 5% exceeded the limits 2-3 times a week (4% in February)
    • 2% exceeded the limits practically every day (1% in February).
  • 40% of drinkers have participated in a virtual happy hour or meal with friends and/or relatives since self-isolation began.

An important reminder

Here are five tips from Éduc’alcool to help you with your drinking during self-isolation:

  1. Count your drinks.
  2. Stick to the recommended limits (two drinks a day for women and three for men, with two alcohol-free days a week).
  3. Alternate alcohol and non-alcoholic drinks.
  4. Don’t use alcohol to self-medicate in treating stress or loneliness. Instead, connect with other people and ask for help if you need it.
  5. Regular alcohol abuse weakens the immune system, so cut back if you are a heavy drinker.

“While having a drink can be very enjoyable, the importance of sticking to the low-risk drinking guidelines cannot be overemphasized,” said Hubert Sacy. “The vast majority of Quebecers have heard us. Still, we must make sure that everyone remains vigilant and exercises the utmost caution. More than ever, in times of isolation and pandemic, moderation is always in good taste”.

A note on methodology: The results of the survey administered by CROP are based on 1,412 responses recorded on April 4 and 5, 2020. Respondents were recruited through a web panel. The survey questionnaire contained about fifteen variables.