UPDATE 1-Top Canada health official frets over higher alcohol, junk food use during pandemic

(Recasts with comments by public health officer, adds details, background)

OTTAWA, June 7 (Reuters) - Canada’s top health officer on Sunday expressed concern over higher consumption of alcohol and junk food during the coronavirus epidemic, suggesting this could be a sign of worsening mental health.

The total number of Canadians killed by the coronavirus edged up by 0.9% to 7,773 from 7,703 on Saturday, the public health agency said, further evidence that the worst of the pandemic has passed. The total number of cases rose to 95,057 from 94,335.

Canada’s 10 provinces are all gradually reopening their economies and relaxing restrictions on social gatherings. Unemployment though has soared to record levels amid widespread shutdowns and market analysts say it could take years for the economy to recover.

“I am concerned about Canadians’ mental health ... more Canadians have increased their consumption of alcohol and junk food or sweets since the beginning of the pandemic,” chief public health officer Theresa Tam said in a statement.

Tam, citing the results of a recent Statistics Canada survey about the effects of the pandemic, said Canadians needed to make mental health a priority.

“While social interactions and activities might look different right now, Canadians should be actively looking for safe ways to socialize, engage in physical activity and make ... healthy food choices,” she said.

Almost 20% of respondents in the Statscan survey reported symptoms consistent with moderate or severe anxiety.

Last month, Statscan said factory sales of beverages and tobacco rose by 6.7% in March from February on higher demand for beer, wine and soft drinks. Food sales increased by 8.2%. (Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Daniel Wallis)