Alcohol consumption jumps during pandemic, WSU study finds

PULLMAN, Wash. — While stuck at home during the pandemic, Americans turned to drinking, according to a Washington State University study found.

The report says about 14 percent of people polled say they drank more alcohol immediately after the stay at home orders were put in place. Those people also reported higher levels of stress and anxiety.

The survey used twins, both identical and fraternal to see if changes in alcohol use and stress and anxiety were due to genetics or if they’re due to something in the unique environment.

“The twin who reported drinking more had a higher level of stress than the twin who had no change and then the same went for the twin who reported drinking less,” said Ally Avery, the lead author on the survey.

She says this was surprising because they expected identical twins to have similar levels despite the circumstances. She adds people who felt more stressed turned to alcohol as a coping method during the lockdown.

“People who reported a decrease could be social drinkers who can’t go out and drink anymore because of working remotely or bars being closed,” Avery said.

The study results did show there was no relationship with the increase in alcohol use and changes in depression. However, prolonged use might lead to depression. Prior research has shown circumstances like divorce, unemployment and social isolation cause an increase in alcohol use to cope with stressful times.

“There are not as many studies about viral outbreaks like this specifically, but a study of hospital employees in China exposed to SARS found that the employees who were quarantined working in high risk locations had a significantly higher risk of using alcohol,” said Avery.

So, are there more healthy options besides turning to the bottle? Avery says exercise, meditation, healthy eating and plenty of sleep all help with anxiety and stress.

Avery says they have not seen a correlation between single people, couples and families during the lockdown because they didn’t ask about that on the initial survey but did add those questions to the following surveys.