Boredom, stress during pandemic behind rise in alcohol, cannabis use for some Canadians: survey

The ongoing health crisis has played a role in Canadians’ use of drugs and alcohol, with boredom and stress driving a boost in consumption for some adults during the pandemic, according to a new survey.

Statistics Canada, which released its findings Thursday, looked into how those habits have changed compared to before the pandemic for adults across the country — and what exactly is behind an uptick in drinks or cannabis use.

“Some may have had more free time to consume alcohol and non-medical cannabis, while others may have increased their consumption in an effort to relieve boredom or fight loneliness,” the agency said.

The survey, which was conducted from Jan. 25 to 31, found that 54 per cent of Canadians who use cannabis or drink alcohol did not report any changes in their habits.

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When it comes to alcohol, Ontario had the highest jump in increased consumption with 30 per cent. The Prairies saw a 27 per cent spike while British Columbia followed at 22 per cent. Meanwhile, Quebec had a 17 per cent increase and the Atlantic provinces followed at 16 per cent.

The number of people nationwide who reported drinking more is almost the same as those who cut back. Of those surveyed, 24 per cent who drank alcohol in the pre-pandemic period say their consumption has been on the rise, while 22 per cent say their drinking has decreased.

Canadians who are drinking more during the pandemic pointed to different reasons for the change, with 60 per cent pointing to boredom and 58 per cent citing stress. Convenience, loneliness and insomnia were also factors.

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Those having fewer drinks, meanwhile, say their drop in alcohol use could be related to lockdown measures, physical distancing, personal choice and other factors.

The survey found that the majority of Canadians, 58 per cent, who reported a decrease in alcohol use cited a lack of socialization — such as fewer opportunities to dine out or go to a bar — as the main reason for the change.

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Cannabis use on the rise for more than one-third of Canadians

The survey found that the majority of Canadians (54 per cent) who used cannabis before the pandemic didn’t report any increases during the health crisis — but many of them continued to use marijuana most days of the week.

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However, 34 per cent of Canadians who previously used cannabis said their consumption had increased over the past year. They also pointed to stress, boredom and loneliness as reasons behind the changes.

“The proportion of respondents who increased their consumption of cannabis during the pandemic reached 23 per cent among those who ‘never’ or ‘hardly ever’ felt a lack of companionship since the start of the pandemic, compared with 45% of those who ‘often’ or ‘always’ felt this,” the agency said.

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An uptick in cannabis consumption is most notable among young people aged 15 to 29. The survey found that 43 per cent reported an increase in marijuana use amid the health crisis.

Meanwhile, 20 per cent of respondents aged 50 to 64 reported an increase in cannabis use compared to 22 per cent of people who are 65 and older.

For Canadians who used cannabis before the pandemic, 12 per cent say there was a drop in their consumption during the pandemic. The reasons behind that decrease included personal choice, a lack of opportunities for socialization and personal responsibilities.

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