Since the start of the lockdown, Belgians have started smoking and drinking more. This is evident from a survey conducted by the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) and UZ Brussel among 3,632 Belgians during the month of April.
It is mainly parents with young children and temporary unemployed who drink and smoke more than before the corona measures. There is also a big difference between the young and the elderly, because the latter is much more limited. Alcohol consumption has not increased in people who work in healthcare.
It is also striking that about 15 percent of people who used to drink little or not now do so more often. Conversely, about 15 percent of people who regularly drink something are now almost quit. This mainly concerns people who only drink alcohol at social occasions such as at a café or with friends. The figures for smoking are similar. There it is always about 5 percent.
“People are looking for a way out after the crowds and stress. Others miss the structure in their day, the contacts with other people, ”says psychiatrist Frieda Matthys, who participated in the research, in De Morgen. Boredom and isolation most often emerge as the reason for increased alcohol and tobacco use. Others want to reward themselves after a hard day or make it cozy in their home.
The study looked at the behavior of the general population and, according to the researchers, is an important warning. “The outbreak of the SARS virus in Canada and China in 2003 and 2004 saw a sharp increase in addiction rates two to three years later,” said Matthys.
Here, too, there is a risk that people will continue their newly learned habits after the lockdown. “There is a risk especially for the future. Those who are vulnerable can get into trouble in the coming months and even years. People will then refer to the lockdown as when it went wrong, ”it says.
Frieda Matthys therefore asks general practitioners to check on their patients’ alcohol and tobacco use during consultations. “If you make it open for discussion at an early stage, then it is more likely that we can prevent worse,” she concludes.