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Health & Science
Experts have warned that alcohol is not a helpful coping strategy to deal with stress during the coronavirus lockdown

With the UK now in lockdown amid the coronavirus outbreak, many Brits have found themselves drinking more alcohol to cope with the stress.

But experts have now warned that alcohol is an 'unhelpful coping strategy' to deal with stress during this time.

Many turn to substances such as alcohol at a time of stress, experts from the European arm of the World Health Organisation (WHO) said.

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Experts acknowledged that feeling stressed, anxious, fearful and lonely is "natural" at this time.

But they reminded people that using substances such as alcohol "will not help to manage the stress of self-isolation".

It recommended that people should be "minimising the unhelpful coping strategies of using tobacco or alcohol".

The recommendation comes after off-licences were added to the Government's list of UK retailers allowed to stay open during the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr Aiysha Malik, technical officer for the WHO's department of mental health, said: "For people without addictions, using substances will not help to manage the stress of self-isolation. They can make things worse."

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She said that the WHO wanted to highlight basic strategies to help people look after their mental wellbeing including eating healthily, exercise, ensuring they get enough sleep and social support.

Dr Malik added: "When we're staying at home routines are very important for creating a sense of structure. Minimising the unhelpful coping strategies of using tobacco or alcohol can also be important for wellbeing and minimising content you might find distressing in the news."

WHO Europe also said that mental health services should prepare for a surge in need as a result of the pandemic.

Social distancing and isolation measures are keeping people away from what they want to do, who they want to be with, and where they want to be, which can impact on mental health.

Meanwhile, when people are told they are part of a "vulnerable" group - such as the over-70s - this could induce fear, anxiety and stress, the WHO's expert panel added.

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Dr Malik continued: "Older adults and those with existing health conditions have been identified as more vulnerable to Covid-19. To be told that you are very vulnerable can be extremely frightening and fear-inducing.

"The psychological impact for older adults can include anxiety, feeling stressed or angry, and its impact can be particularly difficult for older adults who might have a cognitive decline or dementia. Some older adults may have already been socially isolated before this and feel lonely which can worsen mental health."

She said to protect their mental health people can take part in physical activity, stick to routines or create new ones, engage in activities which give a sense of achievement and maintain social connections.

It comes after a survey, commissioned by the Mental Health Foundation and the Institute of Public Health at the University of Cambridge, found that Britons have felt a range of emotions as a result of the pandemic.

The poll of 2,000 UK adults found that 62% felt anxious or worried as a result of the outbreak, while 22% have felt panic and three in 10 have felt afraid.

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Mental Health Foundation director of research Dr Antonis Kousoulis said: "This poll was carried out before full lockdown was introduced. Even then there were clear indications that the pandemic was beginning to have a significant impact on the nation's mental health."

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