New research shows the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on rates of addiction
A national YouGov poll commissioned by The Forward Trust to coincide with Addiction Awareness Week 2022 has revealed a sharp increase in addiction in the past eight months, since the start of the deepening cost of living crisis.
32% of adults reported to have relapsed into addiction or know someone close to them to have relapsed. The cost-of-living crisis was considered the most significant trigger for anxiety, stress, and trauma by those reporting addiction relapse - according to 61% of respondents.
The research which has now run for three consecutive years reveals that for many people economic uncertainty and rising inflation has created a downward spiral of addiction after the pandemic – compounding the effect from that period where addiction grew significantly.
Published during Addiction Awareness Week (30th Oct – 6th Nov), the research is part of the national Taking Action on Addiction campaign. The campaign calls for addiction to be treated as a serious mental health condition, and for increased access to treatment, support, and care for anyone impacted, including families and children. Given the growing scale of addiction, the campaign calls on government to fully commit to the increase to addiction treatment spending approved by the government as part of its 10 year Drug Strategy: From Harm to Hope (2021) in response to the Dame Carol Black Independent Review of Illicit Drugs and to further support calls for an independent review of alcohol harm.
The campaign, whose charity partners include The Forward Trust, Kaleidoscope, The Amy Winehouse Foundation, NACOA, Music Support, Steps2Recovery, Phoenix Futures and FAVOR UK, warns of a significant spike in demand for care, treatment and recovery services as more people respond to the harsh realities of a pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis.
According to the YouGov poll, 6% of respondents - equating to 2.1 million people, have increased the amount that they are drinking since the cost-of-living crisis began. A quarter of those who have increased their alcohol intake have reported problems as a result – ranging from lack of sleep, to work problems and stress.
This 6% increase in alcohol consumption during the cost-of-living crisis will exacerbate the spiralling levels of alcohol harm across the UK. Currently, alcohol-specific deaths are at their highest since records began and recent research has shown that ‘changes in alcohol consumption during the COVID-19 pandemic are likely to lead to thousands of additional cases of disease, premature deaths and hospital admissions will cost the NHS billions’. The merits of Addiction Awareness Week and increased access to treatment to reverse this disturbing trajectory cannot be overstated.
Mike Trace (Forward Trust Chief Executive) commented:
“Addiction Awareness Week highlights the urgent need to recognise that drug and alcohol consumption, and rates of addiction, seem to be rising in the UK at an alarming rate. Addiction is a serious mental health condition that can trap individuals, break up families, increase health, social and crime problems, and reduce economic activity.
Addiction is deeply connected to other mental health conditions and so it is no surprise to see that whilst people grapple with the anxiety and stress of a cost-of-living crisis they are reporting relapse or turning to drinking, drugs or gambling.
Yet where is the public conversation about tackling addiction? This report, as others before it, clearly highlights the scale of addiction in our society far outweighs the help available. This awareness week is an urgent call for people to share the message that addiction is widespread across our society, that people and families struggling with addiction deserve our compassion and support, and that recovery is possible.”
All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2191 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 10 -11 October 2022. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).
May 2021 and 2020:
All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2088 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 6-7th May 2021 and 15th - 17th May 2020. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).
Alcohol death figures can be found here:
Alcohol-specific deaths in the UK - Office for National Statistics (ons.gov.uk)
Shifts in alcohol consumption during the pandemic could lead to thousands of extra deaths in England | News | The University of Sheffield
Unless otherwise stated, the analysis of the data has been made by Action on Addiction, Part of The Forward Trust. Population analysis was conducted on base sample of UK adult population and proportioned accordingly to responses.For more information on the results and analysis email firstname.lastname@example.org.