Suffolk & North East Essex Shadow Integrated Care System

Why the pub is good for our mental health - a blog from Giles Watling - MP for Clacton

September/October 2019
Giles Watling MP

“The pub is a celebrated part of British life, but thousands have closed in the last decade.

“No doubt that is a great shame and the closure of any pub is also detrimental to cross-government work on loneliness and social cohesion. That point is supported by research, which has found that people who have a local pub are happier, have more friends, and feel more engaged with their community. So, closures are depriving some people of these important social benefits and, clearly, makes tackling loneliness that much harder.

“What is more, the rate of closures seems to correlate with people choosing to buy alcohol to drink at home, with a 27.3% increase in off-trade beer sales since 2001, compared to a decline in on-trade sales. From this, I would also argue that there is an underlying potential public health concern here, because people who drink at home, without a responsible landlord to keep an eye on them, run the risk of alcohol abuse. I believe that is why the number of hospital admissions related to alcohol remains stubbornly high at one million annually – certainly, this is not helped by the fact you can buy 24 units of powerful cider in some supermarkets for just £3!

“In terms of a response, we must recognise that pub closures derive, predominantly, from that surge of cheap alcohol in supermarkets. We must also accept that previous across the board cuts in beer duty have not stemmed the rate of closures, since they have allowed supermarkets (off-trade) to continue to undermine the pub (on-trade) with even cheaper beer – so, while we have introduced beer duty cuts to try and help the pub, we have helped its rival industry more!

“So, we need a new pragmatic approach to beer duty that skews the odds back in favour of the pub, to maintain the social and health benefits these establishments bring. Therefore, I propose to create a differential rate of beer duty, which favours the pub over the supermarket. This policy, which can only be implemented after Brexit, would raise the cost of supplying beer in supermarkets, whilst reducing the cost of supply in pubs.

“Make no mistake, this would not end the price disparity between on-trade and off-trade on it is own, but it would be a start. Moreover, it would help pubs stay open, which will combat loneliness and promote responsible drinking.  I recently held a Westminster Hall Debate on this, read about it here.”



Holt-Lunstad J, TB, Layton JB. 2010. Social relationships and mortality risk: a meta-analytic review. PLoS Medicine 7