Binge drinking spiked during the coronavirus lockdown – women's alcohol consumption rose 41 percent year over year
- The researchers surveyed 1,540 adults in the United States about their alcohol consumption
- They examined the habits in the spring of 2019 and again in the spring of 2020 during the shutdown
- During the shutdown, there was a 41 percent increase in women's binge drinking
- The frequency of drinking in adults also increased by up to 19 percent
In the early stages of the coronavirus lockdown, heavy drinking "increased sharply", especially among women, according to a new study.
RAND Corporation researchers surveyed 1,540 adults in the United States during the peak of the coronavirus to see if their drinking habits had changed.
The team found that excess alcohol in women – defined as four or more drinks in a few hours – rose 41 percent year over year.
The increase in alcohol use during lockdown could worsen mental health problems such as anxiety and depression, the study authors warn.
The team found that excess alcohol in women – defined as four or more drinks in a few hours – rose 41 percent year over year. Image from a picture agency
The participants involved in the study were asked about their drinking habits in spring 2019 – and then in spring 2020 during the shutdown of the pandemic.
The study also found that the frequency of drinking increased by 14 percent in adults over 30 years of age and 19 percent in adults over 30 to 59 years of age.
Lead author Professor Michael Pollard, a sociologist at RAND, said this supports anecdotal evidence that people consumed more alcohol during the lockdown.
Nielsen reported US alcohol sales up 54 percent from the previous week in late March 2020, and online sales were up 262 percent.
"This is some of the earliest survey-based information showing how much alcohol consumption has increased during the pandemic," he said.
"Alcohol can have adverse health effects. This information points to another way the pandemic can affect physical and mental health."
Researchers say health care providers, behavioral health professionals, and family members should be aware of the risks of increased alcohol use by family and friends.
The team also recommends that health officials may need to use print or online media to educate consumers about the risks of increased alcohol consumption.
Pollard said the results also suggest that future research should investigate whether the surge in alcohol consumption continues while the pandemic continues.
The participants involved in the study were asked about their drinking habits in spring 2019 – and then in spring 2020 during the shutdown of the pandemic. Image from a picture agency
The work could also investigate whether mental and physical well-being is impaired as a result of increased alcohol consumption.
Since all participants reported their own alcohol consumption, the authors say that this could lead to a "social desirability bias" leading to their being reported.
"Nonetheless, these results suggest that research into whether alcohol consumption persists during the ongoing pandemic and whether psychological and physical well-being is impaired afterwards may be warranted," the authors wrote.
The results were published as a research letter in the journal JAMA Network Open.