JAMA Network Open published a study surrounding alcohol consumption as the pandemic was erupting in 2020. Unfortunately, the report found that many people have been turning to alcohol in order to manage constant change and chronic stress.
The research findings indicate that drinking alcohol by adults went up 14% between
2019 and 2020. Notably, females specifically surged in alcohol consumption by a staggering 41% compared to the 2019 baseline numbers.
Knowing this unsettling reality, it’s important to understand the underlying factors, as
well as healthy coping alternatives since the world as we know it is still faced with this
unprecedented virus and countless mutations.
What is Triggering Increased Alcohol Use?
Not surprisingly, it is believed that the uptick in consuming alcohol is driven by uncertainty and fear caused by the novel COVID-19 virus. Before the pandemic wrecked
havoc across the globe, alcohol consumption was already a public health concern. For
those who were already battling mental health challenges, the pandemic only poured
fuel on the fire.
Examples of life circumstances that could lead to elevated alcohol use:
• Out of work
• Working in the frontlines (e.g. healthcare staff, grocery store employees,
• Lack of financial security
• Emotional and social support deprivation
• Working remotely from home
• Responsible for homeschooling children
• Losing a loved one from the COVID-19 virus
Pre-pandemic, if someone had a stressful day or event take place, they could have
broken a sweat at the gym, met friends for dinner at their favorite restaurant, or catch a
movie at the neighborhood theater as a means to temporarily ‘check out’ from reality.
Instead, for more than a year, the new reality has included virtually zero social engagements, covering our faces with masks, isolating with little to no physical touch, and
other strict protocols in order to reduce spreading the virus.
Historically, alcohol has been positioned in advertising as a normal and acceptable
means to cope with stress, and to have fun. Alcohol is also easily accessible. Meeting
over Zoom to virtually engage in happy hour cocktails among friends and colleagues
became a marketable way to ‘taste’ what life used to be like during quarantine.
Recommended Guidelines for Alcohol Consumption
According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for healthy adults,
light to moderate alcohol consumption is deemed acceptable. On the other hand, indulging in alcohol can cause undesirable health issues, ranging from car accident injuries, elevated blood pressure, and disease of the liver.
The CDC has outlined what they consider over-indulging when it comes to alcohol use:
• Women — Drinking four or more servings during the same instance, or eight alcohol
beverages over the course of a week
• Men — Drinking five or more servings during the same instance, or 15 alcohol beverages over the course of a week
Exploring At-Risk Populations
Those who are at higher risk for extreme alcohol consumption include people who are
• Insufficient finances
• Scarce support among social network
• Pre-existing trials including substance abuse and mental health challenges
• Compromised coping skills
• Decreased access to treatment facilities and programs they previously engaged in
prior to COVID-19
Additionally, parents could be at a higher risk for overindulging in alcohol based on
their increased demands caused by the pandemic.
Beneficial Coping Tools for Stress
Handling stress in a healthy way is critical for self-care and overall wellbeing.
Some activities to help facilitate positive coping include:
• Make sleep a priority (6-8 hours a night)
• Daily physical exercise (30 minutes)
• Pursue creative outlets based on the individual’s personal interest (e.g. painting,
cooking, gardening, etc.)
• Drink water and stay hydrated (ideal amount is an ounce of water for each
pound you weigh, daily)
• Nurture your body with healthy, unprocessed foods
• Ask for emotional support from a social worker, counselor or therapist
If applicable, contact a trusted person in your life, or a healthcare provider, to help reduce your alcohol use. As stated above, talk therapy is another outlet to get support,
as well as help teach healthy coping skills for self-care and stress management.
Please visit our Auxo Medical blog every month to stay current on relevant matters in