RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, North Carolina, August 12, 2021 / PRNewswire / – A second wave of findings from a study conducted by RTI International, a nonprofit research institute, found that increases in alcohol consumption seen at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, including binge drinking, have been maintained for at least november 2020.
Compared to February 2020, alcohol consumption in november 2020 was 39% higher, according to new data, in terms of consumption per month. The first wave of the survey, conducted last year and sponsored by RTI, looked at changes between February and april 2020 and revealed a 36% increase during this period.
The proportion of people exceeding drinking guidelines increased by 27% between February and april 2020, according to the first wave of the survey, and this increase jumped to 39% between February and november 2020, according to the follow-up survey. Excessive alcohol consumption increased by 26% between February and april 2020, with a further increase to 30% between February and november 2020.
“Our study shows that people didn’t just increase their alcohol consumption for a month or two at the start of the pandemic – the trend continued for most of the year,” said Caroline barbosa, Ph.D., health economist at RTI. “The increase in alcohol consumption has been linked to natural disasters and other large-scale events that cause stress and anxiety, and a pandemic certainly fits that description.”
The new results show the largest increases in consumption between February and november 2020 were among black and Hispanic women (increases of 173% and 148%, respectively), black men (173%), men who chose something other than white, black or Hispanic for their race / ethnicity (209%) , and women with children under 5 in the household (323%).
More women than men reported exceeding drinking recommendations between April and november 2020, aligning with the first wave of survey data that showed the pandemic was disproportionately affecting women’s drinking habits.
“Women are more likely to use alcohol to cope with stress, depression and anxiety, and all of this is a natural response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Barbosa said. “Alcohol consumption among women has increased over the past two decades, and our study suggests that the pandemic can only exacerbate this trend.”
Compared to February 2020, the proportion of Blacks drinking above recommended guidelines – that is, no more than four drinks per day and 14 drinks per week for men and no more than three drinks per day and seven drinks per week for men. women and people over 65 – increased 140% in April and was six times higher in November.
In addition, there was an increase in the proportion of respondents with mental health problems who reported drinking to cope with stress or tension, from 5% in February to 15% in November. The average consumption of this set of respondents also increased by almost half a glass per day.
“Policymakers must be prepared to respond to the public health consequences of such a sudden and sustained increase in alcohol consumption,” added Barbosa. “I would also encourage them to heed the lessons learned from the pandemic. For example, relaxing regulations during the pandemic to allow curbside pickup and extending privileges for home alcohol deliveries may have contributed to an increase in consumption, and now some of these relaxed regulations are being definitively adopted.
The follow-up survey was sponsored by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and re-interviewed respondents who participated in the first wave.
The results of the follow-up survey were shared in a webinar on Tuesday.
View the webinar slides
RTI Media Relations
SOURCE RTI International