Alcohol consumption

New Patterns of Alcohol Consumption During the COVID-19 Pandemic in the United States

In a recent study published in the journal Alcoholism: clinical and experimental researchresearchers assessed drinking patterns over 42 weeks after the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic began in the United States.

Estimates indicate that the sale and consumption of alcohol in the United States increased during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic and it is unclear whether it persisted in later phases of the pandemic. Stress, reduced access to health care, economic distress, institutional racism, alcohol delivery services and lack of alternative sources of pleasure may have increased for some subsets of the population, while Bar closures and fewer social gatherings may have reduced drinking habits among some others. However, longitudinal studies characterizing consumption trajectories throughout the pandemic are lacking.

​​​​​​​Study: Alcohol consumption trajectories among American adults during the first 42 weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic. Image Credit: logoboom / Shutterstock

About the study

In the current study, the researchers longitudinally examined the trajectories of alcohol consumption during the first 42 weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic among the American adult population.

The Longitudinal Coronavirus Americas Survey included bi-weekly surveys with March 10, 2020 as the baseline. He invited respondents from the Understanding America (UAS) study to participate. The surveys were self-administered online questionnaires, and the present study used 21 bi-weekly survey waves between March 10, 2020 and January 20, 2021. Participants were given internet-enabled tablets if they lacked resources. Respondents reported their ethnicity/race, gender, age, marital status, highest level of education, and annual household income.

Employment status was checked at each wave, and responses were captured as a) working regularly, b) reduced time/job loss, 3) not working regularly, or 4) other. The frequency of consumption during the past week was measured. During the third wave of the survey, an item assessing the number of drinks consumed during a typical drinking day was introduced.

Growth mixture models (GMM) were applied after descriptive analyzes of aggregated samples. GMMs identified many subgroups of homogeneous trajectories using variance, mean, and covariance patterns of repetitive person-level measures of latent intersections and linear or quadratic slopes. Separate series of MGMs were estimated for drinking days and binge drinking with successively increasing trajectories. Lo-Mendell-Rubin likelihood ratio (LMR) tests, entropy values, and Akaike’s information criterion (AIC) selected models with the best-fitting trajectories.


Of the 8,547 UAS respondents invited to the coronavirus survey, 8,151 completed at least one survey. Among these, data on the frequency and intensity of consumption (of the drinking type) were provided at least once by 8,130 and 7,833 respondents, constituting two analytical samples. There were variations in the response rate between surveys and the number of surveys completed per respondent. On average, each respondent completed 15.64 surveys. More than half (52%) of the subjects were female, 61% were white, 18% Hispanic, 12% black, 5% Asian, and other ethnic/racial groups constituted 4%. About 53% were married, 19% to 20% were below the poverty line, and 45% had a college degree.

Overall, 129,102 observations of drinking frequency and 123,619 of intensity (drinking type) were analyzed. In the overall sample, the average number of drinking days during the previous week increased from 1.17 in March to 1.48 to 1.55 the following month, which gradually decreased throughout the period. year and varied from 1.2 to 1.33 during the last four months of the study period. The mean proportional odds of binge drinking in the previous week was relatively stable at 0.06 at all time points.

The final GMM for drinking frequencies produced four trajectories: minimal/stable prevalence in 5793 people (72.8%), with

The moderate/early increase trajectory (constituting 12.9% of respondents) showed 2.13 average drinking days in March, 2.93 in April and 3.2 by the end of 2020. near-daily/early increase (7.6% of participants) revealed 5.58 average drinking days in March and 6.19 in April without ever returning to baseline.

GMMs for binge drinking in the previous week revealed an optimal four-class pattern. Minimal/stable prevalence was noted in 85.8% of respondents, with binge drinking probabilities consistently below 0.01 at all times. The low to moderate/fluctuating trajectory (constituting 7.4% of respondents) had varying probabilities of use without systemic patterns.

The moderate/mild increase trajectory (by 4.2% of participants) showed a probability of 0.39 in April, 0.59 in May, reaching peak levels from August to September at 0.65, and n never returned to baseline. The high/early increase trajectory (representing 2.7% of participants) showed a probability of binge drinking of 0.84 in April that rose to 0.96 in June without ever returning to baseline.


The study found that most adults in the United States had minimal to no (72.8%) and negligible (85.8%) drinking habits. Two subpopulations constituting 20.5% of the sample size increased frequency of use during the pandemic. Similarly, binge drinking was higher in two subpopulations representing 6.9% of the study population, and notably, they never returned to baseline levels until the end of the study (January 2021). Self-reports of alcohol consumption may be subject to measurement error, while non-response to the survey may affect results. Data from pre-COVID-19 periods was not available, making it difficult to adjust to pre-pandemic trends.

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