Every British Columbian aged 15 and over drank the equivalent of 9.32 liters of pure alcohol between April 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021, with alcohol consumption reaching the highest rate in two decades .
In other words, they drank the equivalent of 547 cans of 5% beer or 104 bottles of 12% wine.
These figures appear in the latest analysis of data on alcohol sales in British Columbia from the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research at the University of Victoria, which began tracking consumption rates in 2001. The current per capita consumption rate is the highest on record.
The data challenges mainstream theories about alcohol consumption, said institute director Tim Naimi.
“This tells us that the higher consumption levels seen in the early months of COVID were not the result of stockpiling, but of an overall increase in sustained alcohol consumption over the year” , he said in a statement.
While BC residents drank significantly less alcohol in bars and restaurants, with drinking rates down 60% (bars) and 46% (restaurants), they more than compensated for purchases from private liquor stores, which accounted for 55% of all liquor sold in the province.
“It has never been easier to buy alcohol in British Columbia and we know that the increased availability of alcohol encourages people to drink more of it,” said Naimi. “Alcohol policy changes in the COVID era, such as increased opening hours, government support for alcohol retailers to develop online stores, expansion of delivery door-to-door and the declaration of liquor stores as an essential service, certainly played a role in these increases.”
Province-wide, residents in the region covered by Interior Health drank the most with 13.69 liters per capita per year, followed by Island Health with 11.54 liters per year. Fraser Health was the lowest at 7.09 liters.
“In the past, some regions have cited tourism as a reason for higher than average drinking rates, with the assumption that visitors account for a good portion of alcohol purchases,” Naimi said. “Given that British Columbia saw far fewer tourists in the summer of 2020, this theory doesn’t seem to hold water.”
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researchUniversity of Victoria