RTI International, a nonprofit research institute, conducted a research study into the drinking habits of American during the Covid shutdowns. In general, alcohol consumption in November 2020 in America was 39% higher than in February 2020, the last full month before the pandemic closures began. And women with kids increased their drinking the most.
This should come as no surprise. The situation in general caused a great deal of stress on everyone, everywhere. In the first months of the pandemic, the rates of divorce filings reportedly increased greatly. Couple, especially those with no children, who were cooped up at home 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, just couldn’t take it anymore.
People need an outlet at the end of the day. When someone ends his day of work he rushes home to get to his personal sanctuary and whatever amenities are waiting for him there. But what do you do when you work at home all day?
Well, usually at least the kids are in school and your spouse s at their work so you have the house to yourself. And even if this is not the case, you can take a break at any time, head out to a coffee shop, or to a bar for drinks.
But because of the Coronavirus, people were left with no escape, nowhere to go to get away. Everything was closed and the need for social distancing also meant that you couldn’t get in the car, or on a bus, and head off to visit friends.
So it is only natural that people turned to alcohol to get through the time stuck at home.
A 40 percent, even 50 or 60 percent overall increase is understandable. But the rates more than tripled among women with kids.
According to the study, the largest increases in consumption between February and November 2020 were among Black and Hispanic women (173% and 148% increases, respectively), Black men (173%), men who selected something other than White, Black or Hispanic for their race/ethnicity (209%), and women with children under age 5 in the household (323%).
This might make sense if one considers the strains involved in dealing with little children all day long. Now, add to that the added stress of having no parks to take them to during the day because they are all closed, and not being able to take them to a friend’s house for a playdate from time to time.
More women reported exceeding recommended drinking guidelines than men between April and November 2020, aligning with the first wave of survey data that showed the pandemic disproportionately affected women’s drinking habits.
“Our study shows that people didn’t just increase their alcohol consumption for a month or two at the beginning of the pandemic — the trend held for nearly the entire year,” said Carolina Barbosa, Ph.D., a health economist at RTI. “Increases in alcohol consumption have been associated with natural disasters and other large-scale events that induce stress and anxiety, and a pandemic certainly fits that description.”
“Women are more likely to use alcohol to cope with stress, depression, and anxiety, and all these are a natural response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Barbosa. “Alcohol consumption among women has been on the uptick for past two decades, and our study suggests the pandemic may only exacerbate that trend.”
“Policymakers should be prepared to respond to the public health consequences of such a sudden, sustained increase in alcohol consumption,” added Barbosa. “I would also encourage them to consider lessons learned from the pandemic. For example, relaxing regulations during the pandemic to allow curbside pick-up and extending privileges for home alcohol deliveries may have contributed to increased consumption, and now some of these relaxed regulations are being permanently adopted.”