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COVID-19 Lockdown Tied to Increased Heavy Drinking

One-third of adults report binge drinking during the pandemic; existing binge drinkers increasing their intake

woman drinking

MONDAY, Dec. 7, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Heavy alcohol consumption among adults with a history of binge drinking increases the longer they spend at home in lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a study published online Dec. 7 in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse.

Sitara Weerakoon, M.P.H., from the University of Texas Health Science Center in Dallas, and colleagues identified COVID-19-related stressors associated with change in alcohol consumption and binge drinking using data from an online survey of 1,982 U.S. adults (69 percent female) conducted from mid-March to mid-April.

The researchers found that just over one-third of respondents (34 percent) reported binge drinking during the COVID-19 pandemic. Compared with non-binge drinkers, more binge drinkers increased alcohol consumption during the pandemic (28 versus 60 percent). Every respondent had been in lockdown for four weeks, and on average, they spent 21 hours a day at home, with the majority (72 percent) not leaving for work. For every one-week increase in time spent at home during the pandemic, there were 1.21 greater odds of binge drinking when adjusting for sociodemographic factors. There were greater odds of increased alcohol consumption among binge drinkers with a previous diagnosis of depression and current depression symptoms versus those reporting no depression (adjusted odds ratio, 1.80).

"This highlights the ancillary and unintended effects of the COVID-19 pandemic which could have long-lasting population health consequences," the authors write.

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