A RECORD number of Brits drank themselves to death during Covid — as experts warned of the cost of lockdowns.
Deaths linked to boozing jumped by nearly a fifth in England and Wales last year to 7,423, data showed.
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It is the highest annual total since records began, the Office for National Statistics said.
And the increase in alcohol-related deaths worsened throughout the year as strict restrictions were imposed.
The ONS said drinking habits had changed dramatically during lockdown, with more people hitting the bottle at home to relieve stress or boredom.
Dr Matt Parker, of Portsmouth University, said: “The pandemic was stressful for many who lost jobs and livelihoods, and people were isolated, which may have led to an increase in alcohol misuse.
He added: “Alcohol services were also severely disrupted during the pandemic, with healthcare focused on Covid.”
Separate data from Public Health England said the number of people with drink problems increased from 1.5million to 2million during lockdown.
People aged 55 to 64 were worst hit, with an eight per cent rise in problem drinking.
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Dr Tony Rao, of King’s College London, said: “Across all age groups, people were likely to have increased their alcohol consumption during lockdown.
“The absence of face-to-face contact and the psychological impact of lockdown is likely to have a played a major role over the past year.”
Dr Sadie Boniface, also of King’s College, added: “These deaths were not inevitable, but sadly one of many indirect consequences of the pandemic.”