There may not be an obvious connection on the surface, but it doesn’t take a lot to join the dots.
It’s no secret that lockdown has had a massive detrimental impact on mental health across the country.
A study by the University of Glasgow into effects of Covid-19 during the height of the pandemic found a disturbing increase in the rate of suicidal thoughts, especially among young people and individuals from more socially disadvantaged backgrounds – some struggled with the lack of routine and the anxiety this caused.
Then there was the sheer mental strain of juggling home-schooling and working from home – I, for one, am glad those days are over!
Most overarchingly however, there is a consensus around the incredible loneliness caused by this unprecedented isolation, one which varied from person to situation but was felt by most to some degree.
Not being able to meet with friends and loved ones to offload certainly took its toll.
‘More requests than ever for tables for one’
Since ancient times, taverns have served as social hubs for the community.
For example, inns formed the chief alternate centre of social life to the church; they were a public gathering place where you could see your neighbours and simply talk. We are, after all social creatures, designed to live in tribes.
There’s no doubt then that the closure of pubs during the pandemic contributed to this feeling of loneliness, impacting negatively on mental wellness.
As a brewery, we have a taproom on site known as Boss Bar and both in-between lockdowns and during the recent easing of restrictions, we have seen a flood of bookings come in – in fact, we have been busier than ever having to turn bookings away due to the strict Covid measures. I know we aren’t unique as a taproom when we say this.
People are desperate to go out and be among other people for their own sanity. For some single people, a chat they have with a staff member or stranger at the bar might be the only social interaction they have that day.
Unsurprisingly, we have received more booking requests than ever for tables for one from people who clearly feel the need to get out and be among other people.
Many feel guilty about asking for such a reservation knowing the social distancing measures and the fact that they will take up a valuable table.
Our policy as a bar is to absolutely accept these reservations knowing that after this extended period of unnatural isolation, it’s more important than ever that everyone has the opportunity to socialise for their mental wellbeing, especially those who may live alone.
Breaking a ‘masculine taboo’
A problem shared is a problem halved and the pub has always been a hotbed for talking more freely and easily about difficult things.
A study by the Medical Research Council found that men drinking with friends in the pub reported positive effects on their mental wellbeing, allowing them to open up and talk about their emotions – traditionally a masculine taboo.
They also found that having a few pints – in moderation – in a communal group allowed men to look out for each other and lift each other’s spirits. Not only is the pub as a hub the antidote to loneliness, it also acts as a space for tricky mental health topics to be brought up in a non-pressurised way.
There’s more to the everyday local then than being just a watering hole and you only have to tune into the soaps to see that they are at the heart of communities – it’s amazing what topics get discussed at the Rover’s Return!
Not only is their reopening good for the economy then, but it is no exaggeration to say it is positive for the mental health and well-being of the nation as a whole.
It’s good to talk, and for many, it’s even better to do so over a pint.
All we need now is for restrictions to completely ease so that the maximum benefit is felt all round and pubs can go back to doing what they do best – serving as convivial social spaces where problems can be safely shared.