Think back to this time last year. What were you doing? A lot of people would say that they were drinking a lot more than usual, and it was all thanks to the pandemic. Everyone was at home more and social activities were slim to none, and drinking more seemed to become the norm for a lot of people. In honor of Alcohol Awareness Month, we wanted to highlight how the past year has influenced and affected drinking habits among adults.
The numbers prove it—Dr. F. Perry Wilson explained that market research by Nielsen showed that alcohol sales increased by 55% relative to the same time as 2019. In fact, only 10% of Americans reported that they were drinking less than usual during stay-at-home orders. People who tend to drink more anyway only drank more and these habits developed in about a four-week period between March 2020 and April 2020.
And a large number of drinkers were more affluent members of society, with 75% reporting a household income of $80,000/year or more, whose jobs were not impacted by COVID-19.
The increase in drinking among binge drinkers (5+ drinks for men, 4+ drinks for women) was significantly higher than non-binge drinkers. “This is mostly odd because when measuring groups like this, the ‘high groups’ (binge drinkers) tend to go down, and ‘low groups’ tend to go up—that is not the case here,” Dr. Wilson explained.
The bottom line is that people who already drank a lot started drinking more. Unfortunately, the one factor linked to this increase in binge drinking is depression, and it’s a result of social isolation. “The solution here isn’t to pretend that COVID-19 doesn’t exist, it’s to identify the potential harms of social isolation and start to create ways to mitigate them,” said Wilson.
Dr. Wilson also suggests that increased access to psychotherapy, drug and alcohol treatment, and virtual social groups are the best ways to go forward.
Are you concerned about your drinking habits over the last year? You’re not alone. For additional support, contact SAMHSA at 1-800-622-HELP.