Written by Robby Berman on January 29, 2021 — Fact checked by Alexandra Sanfins, Ph.D.
- A new study finds that depression and anxiety contribute to increased drinking during the pandemic.
- The effect is most pronounced for those over the age of 40 years.
- Among older people, those with depression and anxiety are more than twice as likely to drink more alcohol.
Previous research has found that people turn to alcohol as a means of helping them handle stress, such as in the period following the 2001 World Trade Center terrorist attacks.
The COVID-19 pandemic is no exception. Numerous studies have found that alcohol consumption has increased during the pandemic, and dramatically so for people with depression.
A new study takes a fresh look at drinking during the pandemic and finds, for the first time, that age affects the likelihood of a person consuming more alcohol as a response to the pandemic.
Lead author Ariadna Capasso, of NYU School of Global Public Health in New York City, says:
“This increase in drinking, particularly among people with anxiety and depression, is consistent with concerns that the pandemic may be triggering an epidemic of problematic alcohol use.”
The study features in the journal Preventive Medicine.
The researchers surveyed 5,850 adults from all 50 states through Facebook and its associated platforms during the months of March and April 2020. They asked the participants to describe themselves demographically and report how their alcohol use had changed since the start of the pandemic.
The survey also included questions that allowed the researchers to identify and measure the participants’ symptoms of depression and anxiety. Each person also reported the degree to which they felt at risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection.
Of all the participants identifying themselves as drinkers, 29% reported that their alcohol consumption had increased during the pandemic.
Of the drinkers, 51.2% said that the pandemic had not affected the amount of alcohol that they consumed, while another 19.8% reported drinking less.
Of all the people surveyed, 47% and 30% reported symptoms of anxiety and depression, respectively.
Individuals reporting symptoms of depression were 64% more likely to be consuming greater amounts of alcohol, while anxiety was associated with a 41% higher likelihood of increased drinking.
The study also found that demographic factors affected alcohol consumption during the pandemic:
- Women were more likely (33% as opposed to 24%) to have increased their drinking than men.
- Highly educated people were more likely to have started drinking more (32%) than those without a bachelor’s degree (25%).
- Fewer retirees (20%) reported drinking more than employed and currently unemployed participants, 31% of whom were consuming more alcohol.
- People living in rural areas were less likely to have upped their alcohol intake (25%) compared with those living in suburban and urban areas (31%).
Click here to read the full article in Medical News Today.