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Covid-19 Lockdown Increases Binge Drinking: Study

In Health, World
December 07, 2020

A new research adds to the growing body of evidence that harmful drinking among adults increases the longer they remain at home during lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The study, published in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, highlight the relationship between hazardous drinking and life stresses triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic and the associated ‘lockdowns’.

The findings show the odds of heavy alcohol consumption among binge drinkers — those who, within two hours, consumed five or more drinks for men and four and above for women — rose an extra 19 per cent for every week of lockdown.

The odds of increased alcohol intake overall for binge drinkers was more than double that of people who did not drink excessively (60 per cent vs 28 per cent), especially those with depression or a history of the disease.

“Increased time spent at home is a life stressor that impacts drinking and the Covid-19 pandemic may have exacerbated this stress,” said study author Sitara Weerakoon from the University of Texas in the US.

The data was from an online survey completed by 1,982 adults from mid-March to mid-April, which coincided with the first US statewide stay-at-home order on March 19.

The average age of participants was 42 and the majority were white (89 per cent) and female (69 per cent).

Based on survey responses, the researchers categorised participants as binge drinkers, non-binge drinkers and non-drinkers.

Among the factors analysed were length of time spent in lockdown, how many adults or children they were living with, current or previous episodes of depression, and job status related to lockdown such as decreased pay.

The findings showed that during the pandemic, binge drinkers on average had four drinks per occasion, compared to two drinks among non-binge drinkers.

Participants who drank at harmful levels during the pandemic would consume seven drinks maximum on one occasion. This is compared to a maximum of two per session during the pandemic for those who did not.

Living with children in lockdown minimally reduced the odds (by 26 per cent) of turning to the bottle for people in general.

The researchers are now calling for new intervention and prevention strategies for people in isolation at risk of hazardous drinking. Otherwise, they say there could be long-lasting health consequences.