Mothers with young kids consumed 300% more alcohol during pandemic, study reveals

‘Policymakers should be prepared to respond to the public health consequences of such a sudden, sustained increase in alcohol consumption,’ health economist says

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Monday 16 August 2021 17:21 BST

Related video: Alcohol is ‘unhelpful coping strategy’ for coronavirus lockdown says WHO

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Mothers with young children increased their drinking by more than 300 per cent during the pandemic, a study has suggested.

The research spans between the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and the end of 2020 and was conducted by the nonprofit RTI International for the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

The second batch of results released confirms that the increase in drinking at the start of the pandemic, including drinking that went beyond recommended amounts, was “sustained through at least November 2020,” RTI International said in a press release. Participants in an initial survey were quizzed on their alcohol habits again later in the course of the pandemic.

The data shows that Americans overall drank 39 per cent more in November 2020 compared to the same time in 2019, before Covid-19 ravaged the United States.

According to the study, the recommended maximum number of drinks for men is four a day but no more than 14 a week, and three a day but no more than seven a week for women.

The number of Americans going beyond those recommendations increased by 27 per cent between February and April of 2020 and grew by 39 per cent between February and November.

Binge drinking increased by 26 per cent between February and April 2020 and 30 per cent between February and November.

RTI health economist Carolina Barbosa said in a statement that the “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”.

“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,” she added.

Between April and November of last year, more women than men reported going beyond the recommended amounts.

The study found that women with children under the age of five increased their drinking by 323 per cent.

“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,” Dr Barbosa said. “Alcohol consumption among women has been on the uptick for the past two decades, and our study suggests the pandemic may only exacerbate that trend.”

Dr Barbosa added that looser alcohol regulations during the pandemic, such as curbside pickup availability at liquor stores, made it easier to access alcohol.

“Policymakers should be prepared to respond to the public health consequences of such a sudden, sustained increase in alcohol consumption,” she said.

“I would also encourage them to consider lessons learned from the pandemic. For example, relaxing regulations during the pandemic to allow curbside pickup and extending privileges for home alcohol deliveries may have contributed to increased consumption, and now some of these relaxed regulations are being permanently adopted,” she added.

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