ROUNDUP / Addiction as a consequence of the pandemic: more smokers and questionable alcohol consumption
Tobacco plants in a field (symbolic image). pixabay.com
BERLIN / DÜSSELDORF (dpa-AFX) – More obesity, more mental problems, especially with younger people, more problematic cell phone use – it is now becoming increasingly clear what consequences the pandemic has for the health of many people. The proportion of smokers in Germany is apparently suddenly rising again: it is currently almost 31 percent among people aged 14 and over, as the representative long-term study Debra (German survey on smoking behavior) shows. At the end of 2019, before Corona, the proportion of smokers in the population was still around 27 percent.
It is likely that more fresh ex-smokers relapsed last year, says addiction researcher and Debra director Daniel Kotz of the German press agency. “Whether corona stress or the general effects of the pandemic are playing a role here is a bit speculative, but it can be.”
There were also changes in alcohol consumption. In the wake of the corona pandemic, there were fewer opportunities to drink together, says addiction doctor and medical director Falk Kiefer from the Central Institute for Mental Health in Mannheim. Nevertheless, the average alcohol consumption in Germany remained roughly the same compared to the time before the pandemic.
He has shifted to the apartments and to a special subgroup of consumers, explains Kiefer, who is president of the German Society for Addiction Research and Addiction Therapy. “People who have already regularly drunk alcohol at home, for example to have a nice drink in the evening – to drive away loneliness, boredom or worries, they drink more now.” Around 25 percent of adults are affected. Others, on the other hand – the social and party drinkers – reduced their consumption on average.
According to the Federal Association of Wine and Spirits International, sales of wine and sparkling wine rose in food retailing and online retailing, which at least partially compensates for the sharp declines in the catering sector caused by the pandemic. “People who found the pandemic stressful drank more on average than others,” says Kiefer. Stress factors are, for example, multiple stress caused by children in home schooling or spouses in the home office. Boredom and the feeling of not being used are also reasons to drink for some.
In the first lockdown, according to a study by the Central Institute and the Nuremberg University Hospital, 37 percent of over 2000 adults surveyed stated that they consumed more alcohol than before, and 21 percent less. A similar picture emerged for tobacco consumption. Even if such studies are based on self-reports, often collected online, the results are reliable due to the high number of cases and international comparability, according to Kiefer.
Even before the corona pandemic, a declining motivation to quit smoking could be observed in Germany, explains epidemiologist Kotz, head of the addiction research focus at the Center for Health and Society (chs) at the University Clinic in Düsseldorf. The so-called quit smoking attempt rate is also falling. In return, however, there is a clear trend among young people not to even start.
According to studies, around 13 percent of mortality in Germany is still due to tobacco smoking, with a good quarter of these deaths still occurring in working age. Every year around 125,000 people die in Germany as a result of tobacco consumption. That’s more smoking deaths in one year than coronavirus-related deaths in almost two years.
Alcohol also causes umpteen premature deaths every year. By no means all can be traced back to alcohol addiction: more than 200 diseases are known to be promoted or directly caused by alcohol consumption. “The famous healthy glass of red wine is a fairy tale,” says Christine Kreider from the German Central Office for Addiction Issues (DHS).
And there is one more thing in common with smoking: the difficulty of getting rid of it. Serious withdrawal symptoms threaten. “Alcohol has the property that you get used to it,” says Kreider. According to the 2018 Epidemiological Addiction Survey, 6.7 million people in Germany between the ages of 18 and 64 consume alcohol in a form that is hazardous to health. About 1.6 million people in this age group are considered dependent on alcohol. / Hu / DP / nas
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