Story at a glance

  • The most significant changes were among women and people 30 to 59 years old.
  • Frequency of drinking increased by 17 percent among women and 19 percent among people aged 30 to 59.
  • Heavy drinking among women increased by 41 percent since 2019, about one additional day of heavy drinking for 1 in every 5 women.

A new study suggests Americans are drinking more alcohol this year compared to 2019 as the coronavirus pandemic continues to drag on. 

The study published Tuesday in JAMA Network Open collected data from 1,540 U.S. adults between the age of 30 and 80. The participants completed a survey about their drinking habits from spring 2019 and spring 2020 — when the first peak of the COVID-19 crisis hit the U.S. and lockdowns were in place. 


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The research, released by the RAND Corporation — a nonprofit policy think tank — supported by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, found that overall frequency of alcohol consumption increased by about 14 percent from 2019.

The most significant changes were among women and people 30 to 59 years old. Frequency of drinking increased by 17 percent among women and 19 percent among people aged 30 to 59. Heavy drinking among women increased by 41 percent since 2019, about one additional day of heavy drinking for one in every five women. 

“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, lead author of the study and a sociologist at RAND, 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 told the outlet. 

The research notes that Nielson reported a 54 percent increase in alcohol sales in the U.S. at the end of March compared with the previous year, while online alcohol sales increased 262 percent from 2019.  

In the spring, the World Health Organization warned alcohol use during the pandemic can “exacerbate health vulnerability, risk-taking [behaviors], mental health issues and violence.” 


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Published on Sep 30, 2020