Almost three in five adults say they drink alcohol because it helps them cope with the pressures of day-to-day life, a survey has found.
Research by Drinkaware looked at the drinking patterns of 18 to 75-year-olds in the UK and found nearly two in five (38%) who had drunk alcohol in the last year said they had done so to forget their problems at least some of the time.
Nearly half (47%) said they had done so to cheer themselves up when in a bad mood, while 58% said it helps them to cope with the pressures of day-to-day life.
Two out of five (41%) said that they had drunk alcohol because it helps when they feel depressed or nervous, with 54% of these people having done so at increasing levels of risk.
This trend was roughly equal for both men and women and was seen across all age ranges to varying degrees.
But the charity said people in lower social grades, who are more likely to be experiencing financial and housing worries, are drinking to forget their problems or when they are depressed or nervous, at a significantly higher rate.
Drinkaware chief executive Elaine Hindal said: "January can be a difficult time of year for many people and families up and down the country when day-to-day concerns about finances and debt come sharply into focus.
"What this thought-provoking survey shows is that a worrying number of people are drinking alcohol to help them cope with the pressures of day-to-day life.
"Whilst people might think having a drink after a hard day can help them relax, in the long run it can contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety and make stress harder to deal with.
"This is because regular, heavy drinking interferes with the neurotransmitters in our brains that are needed for good mental health."
She said it was "deeply concerning" that so many people were drinking when they are already feeling depressed or nervous, pointing out that regular drinking lowers levels of serotonin - the brain chemical that helps to regulate moods - which can lead to symptoms of depression if people drink heavily and regularly.
Ms Hindal added: "Alcohol and depression can feed off each other to create a vicious cycle.
"Twenty-first century living can be hard but using alcohol to help cope with its pressures, particularly for people who are already struggling, for whatever reason, to keep their heads above water, is not the solution.
"Drinkaware is here to help people make these better decisions by providing a wide range of information and support, like the Drinkaware app, which can help people to track and monitor their drinking.
"Our physical and mental health is too important to be taking risks with."
The charity spoke to 22-year-old Joanna Rog, from London, about how she uses alcohol to help her deal with stress.
She said: "Life can often be incredibly stressful for me as I do my best to juggle the demands of living, working and studying in a big city.
"There are some weeks when I drink every day just to keep myself going. I know that it's not great but there is a release in doing that which helps me to temporarily forget my problems and worries.
"Whilst I take some comfort from the fact that I am not the only one who feels this way, that in itself is really worrying.
"Too many people are hitting the bottle when things get rough and we all need to start thinking why we do this and look for other ways of coping with our day-to-day pressures."