Binge drinking soared during the coronavirus lockdown – especially among women


Binge drinking soared during the coronavirus blockade – with women’s alcohol consumption up 41 percent from the previous year

  • Researchers examined 1,540 American adults for their alcohol use
  • They looked at 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 the rate of binge drinking among women
  • Drinking frequency among adults also increased to 19 percent

During the early stages of the coronavirus lockdown, “heavy drinking” increased dramatically, especially among women, a new study finds.

Researchers at the RAND Corporation surveyed 1,540 US adults during the coronavirus peak to identify any changes in drinking habits.

The team found that female binge drinking – defined as four or more drinks within a few hours – was up 41 percent from the previous year.

The increase in alcohol consumption during lockdown could lead to worsening mental health problems such as anxiety and depression, the study authors warn.

The team found that female binge drinking - defined as four or more drinks within a few hours - was up 41 percent from the previous year.  Stock image

The team found that female binge drinking – defined as four or more drinks within a few hours – was up 41 percent from the previous year. Stock image

Participants involved in the study were questioned about their drinking habits in the spring of 2019 – and then again in the spring of 2020 during the pandemic shutdown.

The study also found that drinking frequency increased by 14 percent among adults over the age of 30 and by 19 percent among young people aged 30 to 59.

Lead author Professor Michael Pollard, a sociologist at RAND, said this supports anecdotal evidence that people consumed more alcohol during lockdown.

Nielsen reported a 54 percent increase in alcohol sales in the US at the end of March 2020 compared to the previous week, and online sales were up 262 percent.

“This is one of the first survey-based information to show how much alcohol consumption has increased during the pandemic,” he explained.

“Alcohol can have negative health effects, so this information suggests another way in which the pandemic could affect physical and mental health.”

Researchers say health care providers, behavioral health workers and family members need to be aware of the risks of increased alcohol consumption among family and friends.

The team also recommends health officials use print or online media to educate consumers about the risks of increased alcohol consumption.

Pollard said the findings also suggest that future research should investigate whether the increase in alcohol consumption continues as the pandemic continues.

Participants involved in the study were questioned about their drinking habits in the spring of 2019 - and then again in the spring of 2020 during the pandemic shutdown.  Stock image

Participants involved in the study were questioned about their drinking habits in the spring of 2019 - and then again in the spring of 2020 during the pandemic shutdown.  Stock image

Participants involved in the study were questioned about their drinking habits in the spring of 2019 – and then again in the spring of 2020 during the pandemic shutdown. Stock image

Work could also explore whether psychological and physical well-being is subsequently affected as a result of increased alcohol consumption.

Since all participants self-reported their alcohol consumption, the authors say this could lead to a “ social desirability bias, ” causing them to under-report.

Nonetheless, these results suggest that it may be warranted to examine whether alcohol consumption increases as the pandemic continues and whether psychological and physical well-being is subsequently affected, the authors wrote.

The results have been published in the journal as a research letter JAMA Network Open.

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