Many people have found themselves drinking more during the pandemic – and at levels that can harm health.

It is more important than ever before to look after our mental wellbeing and physical health – and cutting back on alcohol can help us do that.

Alcohol can be more harmful than you realise and just a couple of glasses a night can put you at greater risk.

Drinking no more than 14 units a week helps keep risks from alcohol low.

Here’s how alcohol can affect us:

Immune system: Alcohol use, especially heavy use, can weaken the immune system and can reduce the ability to cope with infectious diseases such as coronavirus. Alcohol will not stimulate immunity and virus resistance – it will not destroy the virus

Cancer: Alcohol raises the risks of at least seven types of cancer – of the breast, bowel, mouth, larynx, oesophagus, upper throat and liver. See more at

Heart: Drinking can have a harmful effect on your heart. Alcohol can cause abnormal heart rhythms and damage to the heart muscle. See more information about alcohol and cardiovascular disease from the British Heart Foundation.

Stroke: Alcohol can increase the risk of stroke, even if you don’t drink very large amounts. If you’ve had a stroke, alcohol could increase your risk of another stroke. This is because alcohol contributes to a number of medical conditions that are risk factors for stroke, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, being overweight, an irregular heartbeat and liver damage. See more information about alcohol and stroke from the Stroke Association

Blood pressure: Regularly drinking too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure to unhealthy levels which can lead to other serious health conditions.  High blood pressure is the most important risk factor for stroke. More than 1 in 4 adults nationally are living with high blood pressure. See more information about alcohol and hypertension from the Stroke Association

Mental health: Alcohol is sometimes used by people to try and help manage symptoms of anxiety and depression, but excessive drinking is likely to make those symptoms worse. Managing your drinking and getting the right support are crucial to good mental health.

Liver: Drinking too much alcohol over a long period of time means the liver doesn’t get a chance to recover. This can result in serious and permanent damage. Alcohol is the leading cause of liver disease in the UK, which is the biggest killer of 35 to 49-year olds.

Weight: Many people aren’t sure about the number of calories in their drinks but reducing your drinking is an important way to help you lose weight.

Being overweight can lead to many serious health conditions and can increase your risk of heart and circulatory diseases such as heart attack, stroke and type 2 diabetes. Visit

Social distancing: Alcohol can blur the lines when it comes to social distancing. It is more important than ever to keep track of our drinking to protect ourselves and others.

Cutting back:

If you reduce your drinking, your body and mind will thank you.

Reducing your drinking can reduce your risks, do wonders for your waist-line and bank balance and generally make you feel lots better in yourself.

Staying within 14 units a week is the best thing we can all do to keep our risks from alcohol low to stay healthy right now. Fourteen units a week means around six pints of regular strength beer or lager, six standard glasses of wine or seven double 25ml measures of spirits.

Taking more drink free days is a good way to cut down. Having days where you don’t drink can help your body recover and break the cycle of daily drinking. The Drink Free Days app can help.

It is more important than ever before to be looking after ourselves. But drinking too much alcohol can put our health at risk and make us feel worse during the pandemic.

Balance is launching a new campaign “Alcohol – Not the Answer” to encourage people to cut down and take more drink free days. Figures suggest that nearly 400,000 people in the North East and over 8m people nationally have been drinking more since the pandemic began, many at worryingly high levels.

Tips for cutting back.

  1. Try not to stockpile alcohol. Limit the amount of alcohol you buy in and opt for non-alcoholic drinks to help you stay within the 14 unit low-risk weekly guidelines.
  2. Having at least three drink-free days every week can help you cut down on how much you’re drinking. Visit to download the free Drink Free Days app from Public Health England.
  3. Think about being a good role model to your kids around alcohol, which includes how often and how much you drink alcohol. None of us want to teach our children that it’s normal to drink every night or to start each day at 4pm.
  4. You can track your units, calories and money saved when you cut down or cut out alcohol through the Try Dry app from Alcohol Change.
  5. Use a measure to pour your drinks – home-poured measures are often a lot more generous than those you’d get in the pub and contain more units and calories than a standard measure.
  6. If you feel like you should cut down, you’re in good company. An estimated 1 in 3 North East drinkers cut down or stopped drinking alcohol during the spring / summer lockdown.
  7. If you’re feeling stressed or anxious, it can be tempting to turn to alcohol to help you relax. But here are some top ways to unwind from Alcohol Change UK that don’t involve alcohol
  8. When it comes to alcohol and young people, parents often find it confusing to know what to do for the best. The safest option is to follow the Chief Medical Officer guidelines that it is safest and healthiest for children to not drink before the age of 18. For advice every parent needs to know visit
  9. Finally, if you are concerned about your own drinking or someone else’s, call the national alcohol helpline Drinkline on 0300 123 1110 (weekdays 9am–8pm, weekends 11am–4pm). 
  10. Consuming alcohol is not an excuse to drop social distancing. Keeping to social distancing rules can help prevent pressure on the NHS.

If you, a family member or a friend is drinking to high levels it’s important to seek medical advice before stopping or reducing your alcohol intake .

Remember, you can ring PROPS on 0191 226 3440 if you have any questions, concerns or need advice for yourself or a family member. You’re not alone.