UK Lockdown Vices (2021)

Lockdown has been a challenge for Britons up and down the country and has changed the way that we all live.

With pubs, clubs and other social spaces closed, we at Reassured wondered how spending so much time at home has changed the way that people in the UK have been living.

Have more and more Britons been turning to lockdown vices like smoking and drinking? Or has the time at home persuaded Brits to cut out alcohol and cigarettes for good?

We decided to survey over 2,000 people to find out the truth. Here is what we discovered…

Have we been drinking more alcohol in lockdown?

The number of people who drink alcohol has stayed relatively stable during lockdown, suggesting that non-drinkers weren’t persuaded to change their mind about consuming alcohol whilst at home.

That said, the amount people who do enjoy alcohol did increase the amount they were drinking.

Drinkers told us that they typically imbibed 9 units of alcohol per week before lockdown started, yet that average has risen by 43% to 14 units per week since the beginning of lockdown.

Men have been drinking more than women during lockdown, getting through 17 units per week compared to 12 units for women.

The NHS guidance on alcohol recommends that both men and women do not exceed 14 units a week, meaning that UK males have been drinking 3 units over the recommended amounts during lockdown.

Older people have been drinking more than their younger counterparts, with 45-54-year-olds the age group drinking the most, averaging 18 units per week, 4 units over the NHS recommended weekly intake.

Those aged 18-24 and 25-34 years of age have been drinking the least, averaging 12 units per week.

While it is understandable that people have been drinking more during the stresses of lockdown life, it also seems that the majority of drinkers intend to continue their increased alcohol consumption, even once lockdown restrictions have lifted.

Over half (51%) of respondents stated that they won’t be reducing their alcohol intake back down to the levels previously drunk before lockdown started once the pubs and restaurants reopen.

Leeds are the heaviest drinkers in the country

Citizens of Leeds have been drinking an average of 20 units per week during lockdown, more than any other city, and well above the NHS recommendations. Those in Southampton are drinking the least, averaging 10 units per week.

Lockdown alcohol consumption desktop

Those in Leeds are drinking twice as much during lockdown versus previously (20 units versus 10 units).

Could we have the bill, please?

Turning your living room into a pub might be cheaper than actually going to one, however, if these habits are continued once lockdown restrictions are lifted there will be a significant rise in how much the country is spending on alcohol.

The increase in drinking during lockdown will equate to an additional £322 a year for UK beer drinkers and an additional £190 for UK wine drinkers once the pubs and bars reopen.

Lockdown alcohol spend desktop

Beer drinkers in Leeds will see the highest increase, spending an additional £584 a year, with London’s beer drinkers coming in at second place with an additional £518 a year.

Leeds also saw the highest increase in expenditure for wine drinkers, who will spend an additional £366 spent a year once restrictions have lifted. Norwich wine drinkers will be spending an additional £292 on wine.

Are we smoking more in lockdown?

With Brits spending more time than ever at home in the last year, it is perhaps inevitable that smokers have increased their output too.

According to the data, smokers have been smoking more during the lockdown measures, with respondents stating they smoked an average of 11 cigarettes a day before lockdown, which increased by 16% to 13 cigarettes a day during lockdown.

One in seven smokers (15%) plan on quitting smoking once lockdown measures end, while almost half of smokers (46%) plan on cutting down on their smoking habits once lockdown measures end.

However, one-third of smokers stated that will continue with their increased smoking habit once lockdown restrictions have lifted and surprisingly, 6% of smokers intend to smoke more once lockdown measures end.

Which cities have been smoking the most?

Smokers in Glasgow, Liverpool and Cardiff have smoked the most during lockdown, getting through an average of 17 cigarettes a day. Those in Sheffield aren’t far behind, smoking an average of 16 cigarettes per day.

Those in Southampton are smoking the least, smoking an average of 7 cigarettes per day during lockdown.

Smoking consumption lockdown vices desktop

Nottingham has seen the largest increase in the average number of cigarettes smoked, with smokers in the city lighting up an additional 5 times a day on average.

Norwich smokers have changed their habits the least during lockdown, only smoking an average of one additional cigarette during lockdown.

What will it cost?

Smoking can lead to additional costs, both in terms of buying cigarettes and in insurance costs.

For example, life insurance for smokers tends to cost more than it would for someone who does not smoke, although Reassured will still compare multiple providers to secure you the best deal.

In terms of the cost of the cigarettes themselves, the increase in smoking during lockdown would equate to an eye-watering additional cost of £399 a year for UK smokers who will be continuing their increased habits when lockdown restrictions are lifted.

Lockdown Vices - Smoking spend desktop

Smokers in Nottingham will see the biggest cost increase over a year, with an additional £962 spent on cigarettes per smoker.

Glasgow, Norwich, Leeds and Edinburgh smokers will see the lowest cost increase, but it still would equate to an extra £192 over a year.


Smokers and drinkers have understandably increased their consumption during lockdown, and while many have expressed their desire to cut down once restrictions ease, the data indicates that a large number will be planning on continuing these increase habits once life gets back to normal.

Now that we are beginning to see the government’s roadmap out of lockdown start to roll out, it is a good opportunity to take stock of our ‘Lockdown Vices’, from both a financial and health perspective.

The impact of increased drinking or smoking more is not only bad for your health and can cost you more day-to-day, but also has wider financial implications too in terms of increased immediate spend and higher life insurance premiums.

For those looking to reduce their alcohol or cigarette intake as the country begins to exist the national lockdown measures, the NHS have helpful resources on where to get started.


Please note, the data displayed in this article is correct at the point of publication 17/11/21

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