Adults reported drinking 14 percent more during the pandemic than they one year before

By Ally Mauch
September 29, 2020 03:35 PM
Credit: Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times via Getty

A new study has confirmed a trend that many have already suspected: The coronavirus pandemic has led Americans to drink more alcohol.

The study, published Tuesday in JAMA Network Open, concluded that adults reported drinking 14 percent more during the pandemic than they did the year before. The increase was more pronounced among women (with 17 percent saying they drank more) and those in the 30 to 59 age group (with 19 percent reporting an increase in drinking).

″We've had anecdotal information about people buying and consuming more alcohol, but this is some of the first survey-based information that shows how much alcohol consumption has increased during the pandemic,″ Michael Pollard, a lead author of the study, told Forbes.

″Alcohol consumption can have significant negative health consequences, so this information suggests another way that the pandemic may be affecting the physical and mental health of Americans," he added.

Credit: Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe via Getty

The study also cited Nielsen’s earlier report that during the last week of March, online alcohol sales in the U.S. increased by 262 percent from the same week last year. This can likely also be linked to the closure of bars and restaurants.

Heavy drinking (defined as four or more drinks within two hours for women, and five or more for men) also increased, by 41 percent among women and 7 percent for men. Despite that seemingly significant increase, however, the study notes that men are still overall drinking heavily more often than women — they simply drank more prior to the pandemic.

“These results suggest that examination of whether increases in alcohol use persist as the pandemic continues and whether psychological and physical well-being are subsequently affected may be warranted,” the study says.

“In addition to a range of negative physical health associations, excessive alcohol use may lead to or worsen existing mental health problems, such as anxiety or depression, which may themselves be increasing during COVID-19,” it concludes, suggesting that “health systems may need to educate consumers through print or online media about increased alcohol use during the pandemic and identify factors associated with susceptibility and resilience to the impacts of COVID-19.”

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