Study Links Covid Lockdowns and Binge Drinking

(CN) — New research revealed Sunday finds that time spent in Covid-related lockdown increases binge drinking among adults.

In a study published in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, researchers from the University of Texas are the first to find an association between stay-at-home lockdowns and harmful drinking.

Binge drinkers — defined as men who consume at least five drinks and women who consume at least four drinks in a two-hour period — were likely to binge drink by an additional 19% every week they stayed in lockdown.

Health experts discovered that binge drinkers consumed an average of four drinks per occasion during the pandemic, as opposed to non-binge drinkers who consumed two drinks.

Researchers also noted that some binge drinkers would consume up to seven drinks per occasion.

“Increased time spent at home is a life stressor that impacts drinking and the Covid-19 pandemic may have exacerbated this stress,” said Sitara Weerakoon, a doctoral candidate from the University of Texas in a release with the study.

The study authors emphasized that new intervention measures should be taken to help prevent binge drinkers from causing harm to themselves.

“Future research should consider the potential for depressive symptoms acting as a moderator (a factor that changes the impact) in the relation between the time spent under a shelter-in-place mandate and binge drinking,” Weerakoon said.

“Additional research is needed to develop best treatment for people with substance use disorders who may be more susceptible to adverse health outcomes,” she added.

Researchers did find that those living with children were 26% less likely to drink heavily.

The scientists conducted an online survey of 1,982 from mid-March to mid-April, when California became the first state in the U.S. to initiate a stay-at-home order. According to the survey, every participant had spent four weeks in lockdown — spending an average of 21 hours a day at home.

Almost a third of the respondents (32%) said they had been binge drinking during lockdown, though non-binge drinkers said their drinking habits hadn’t changed.

The health experts cautioned that the survey data was self-reported and 70% of the participants were considered high-income, a category of people associated with increased amounts of binge drinking.

The study’s release coincides with new stay-at-home orders in California affecting nearly all of its 40 million residents. 

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