The Netherlands drank and smoked less throughout coronavirus
In the coronavirus year that was 2020, the people of the Netherlands cut down on how much alcohol they drank and how many cigarettes they smoked, likely due to the fact that events across the country were cancelled and bars, nightclubs, and restaurants closed due to the government-imposed national lockdown.
Fewer smokers and heavy drinkers in 2020
According to figures released by Statistics Netherlands (CBS), in 2020 20 percent of people over the age of 18 admitted to (sometimes) smoking, compared to 22 percent in 2019. The proportion of the population aged 18 and above who said they (almost) never smoked increased from 75 percent in 2019 to 79 percent in 2020.
Furthermore, only seven percent of adults were classified as excessive drinkers, drinking at least 21 units per week (men) or at least 14 units per week (women), compared to 8,5 percent in 2019. Last year, 44 percent of the adult population met the Health Council’s alcohol guidelines - which advises against drinking more than one drink a day - marking an increase of 2,5 percent compared to the year before.
Ninette van Hasselt from the Trimbos Institute says that, while it is “very likely” that the forced closure of bars and restaurants reduced the amount of smoking and drinking, this analysis does not provide a comprehensive picture of the situation. Van Hasselt notes that many people may have drunk more because of loneliness or stress: “That still has to be researched carefully. We would like to better understand how coronavirus affects alcohol consumption so that we also know which group has started drinking more and may need help," she said.
The Netherlands still not on track to meet government health targets
In spite of this notable decrease, the proportion of the population that smokes and / or drinks excessively remains significantly higher than the targets set in the National Prevention Agreement outlined by the Dutch government, which would like to see only five percent of the population smoking and / or drinking excessively by 2040.
In addition to this, the proportion of the population classified as overweight (50 percent), or seriously overweight or obese (13,9 percent) was virtually the same in 2020 as it was in 2019. While this is bad news for the government’s health targets, which would like to see only 38 percent of the adult population classified as overweight and 7,1 percent as obese, it does show that the coronavirus lockdown has had a very limited impact on obesity levels in the Netherlands.