By Alan Mozes
TUESDAY, Sept. 29, 2020 (HealthDay News) — Is the coronavirus pandemic driving people to drink? Yes, a new U.S. survey shows, and the greatest spike in alcohol use is being seen in women.
Overall, there was a 14% jump in drinking frequency this past spring among U.S. adults over 30 when compared to last year at the same time, researchers found. Among women, drinking frequency went up 17%.
But excessive alcohol use among women really stood out. During the early months of the pandemic, there was a 41% rise in how often women indulged in binge drinking, meaning having four or more drinks in under two hours. That translated into one in five women drinking heavily one more day each month than they had a year earlier.
“Our study shows that people drank more frequently, and for women in particular, more heavily, and with more negative consequences, during the initial stages of COVID-19 compared to their own behaviors from a year earlier,” said study author Michael Pollard.
“Women also reported a 39% increase in alcohol-related problems, such as ‘I took foolish risks’ or ‘I failed to do what was expected of me’ because of drinking alcohol,” Pollard added.
In the survey, over 1,500 men and women were asked about their drinking habits in May and June. Nearly six in 10 survey participants were women, and about 54% were between the ages of 30 and 59.
The findings showed that, on average, three out of four adults said they had consumed alcohol one day more per month in spring 2020 than they had in spring 2019.
The survey itself did not assess why and it does not prove that the pandemic is actually causing alcohol use to rise, noted Pollard, a sociologist with the RAND Corp. He is a professor at the Pardee RAND Graduate School in Santa Monica, Calif.
But “other studies have suggested that depression and anxiety increased in the early days of the pandemic in the U.S., and people often use alcohol to cope with these issues,” Pollard pointed out.