Stay-at-home orders tied to an increase in harmful alcohol consumption, study finds

December 07, 2020

Binge drinkers increased their alcohol consumption by nearly 20% during COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, according to new research by public health experts at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth). Their study, published in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, is one of the first to analyze the association of stress caused by the pandemic and dangerous alcohol consumption.

The study team surveyed nearly 2,000 adults in the United States in the spring of 2020. Their questions aimed to understand any stressors participants were experiencing stemming from COVID-19 lockdown orders, including amount of time spent at home, how many individuals were living in the participants' household, any current or previous instances of depression, and any job impacts related to the pandemic such as decreased pay. They also surveyed participants about their drinking habits, classifying them as either binge drinkers, non-binge drinkers, or nondrinkers.

Based on the self-reported data, the team was able to determine that 32% of all the participants reported binge drinking during stay-at-home orders, and 60% of those classified as binge drinkers said they had increased alcohol consumption during the pandemic compared to 28% of non-binge drinkers. Binge drinking is defined for men as consuming five or more drinks and for women as consuming four or more within a two-hour period.

In addition, binge drinkers with a history and current diagnosis of depression were more likely to report consuming more alcohol during the pandemic, compared to those with no previous or current diagnosis. The study authors also found that the longer participants spent sheltering at home, the greater the odds of harmful consumption of alcohol.

Those who binge-drank shared they consumed a maximum of roughly seven drinks in one sitting during the pandemic. In comparison, non-binge drinkers reported consuming roughly two drinks maximum during stay-at-home orders, with approximately 56% of non-binge drinkers reporting drinking about the same amount they would prior to the pandemic.

Respondents answered they spent an average of four weeks in lockdown and at least 21 hours a day at home. Those who lived with children were 26% less likely to binge-drink compared to those who did not have children in their household.

The study team shared that their findings point to the concern that the COVID-19 pandemic will have lasting public health consequences, even for those who never contracted the virus.

"Our results indicate that those who spent more time at home during the early stages of the pandemic were more likely to consume alcohol at unhealthy levels. This was particularly concerning for those with a previous diagnosis of depression and current depressive symptoms," said Sitara Weerakoon, MPH, first and corresponding study author and a doctoral candidate at UTHealth School of Public Health.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, prolonged heavy alcohol consumption can lead to liver disease, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and alcohol use disorders.

"We hope that public health and clinical experts consider these additional associations of the pandemic and develop programs and opportunities to overcome them. This may include increasing awareness and access to virtual counseling sessions and mental health services. Additionally, public health organizations should prioritize providing healthy alternatives for stress relief, such as virtual meetups and social activities," Weerakoon said.
-end-
Other UTHealth School of Public Health study authors included Katelyn Jetelina, MPH, PhD; and Gregory Knell, MS, PhD.

University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston

Related Depression Articles from Brightsurf:

Children with social anxiety, maternal history of depression more likely to develop depression
Although researchers have known for decades that depression runs in families, new research from Binghamton University, State University of New York, suggests that children suffering from social anxiety may be at particular risk for depression in the future.

Depression and use of marijuana among US adults
This study examined the association of depression with cannabis use among US adults and the trends for this association from 2005 to 2016.

Maternal depression increases odds of depression in offspring, study shows
Depression in mothers during and after pregnancy increased the odds of depression in offspring during adolescence and adulthood by 70%.

Targeting depression: Researchers ID symptom-specific targets for treatment of depression
For the first time, physician-scientists at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center have identified two clusters of depressive symptoms that responded to two distinct neuroanatomical treatment targets in patients who underwent transcranial magnetic brain stimulation (TMS) for treatment of depression.

A biological mechanism for depression
Researchers report that in depressed individuals there are increased amounts of an unmodified structural protein, called tubulin, in lipid rafts compared with non-depressed individuals.

Depression in adults who are overweight or obese
In an analysis of primary care records of 519,513 UK adults who were overweight or obese between 2000-2016 and followed up until 2019, the incidence of new cases of depression was 92 per 10,000 people per year.

Why stress doesn't always cause depression
Rats susceptible to anhedonia, a core symptom of depression, possess more serotonin neurons after being exposed to chronic stress, but the effect can be reversed through amygdala activation, according to new research in JNeurosci.

Which comes first: Smartphone dependency or depression?
New research suggests a person's reliance on his or her smartphone predicts greater loneliness and depressive symptoms, as opposed to the other way around.

Depression breakthrough
Major depressive disorder -- referred to colloquially as the 'black dog' -- has been identified as a genetic cause for 20 distinct diseases, providing vital information to help detect and manage high rates of physical illnesses in people diagnosed with depression.

CPAP provides relief from depression
Researchers have found that continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) treatment of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can improve depression symptoms in patients suffering from cardiovascular diseases.

Read More: Depression News and Depression Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.