Mental health and economic stressors associated with high-risk drinking and increased alcohol consumption early in the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States

Elizabeth D. Nesoff*, Sarah Gutkind, Safiya Sirota, Anna Laura McKowen, Cindy B. Veldhuis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations

Abstract

Physical distancing measures to curb COVID-19 transmission introduced mental health and economic stressors, possibly impacting problematic drinking. This cross-sectional study examines mental health and economic stressors early in the COVID-19 pandemic which may be associated with heavy alcohol use and increased alcohol use. We administered an online survey of U.S. adults via social media April 5 to May 5, 2020. High-risk drinking was defined by WHO risk drinking levels, a daily average of ≥4 drinks for men and ≥3 drinks for women. Participants reported retrospective assessments of increased alcohol use if their past-week alcohol consumption exceeded their past-year average weekly alcohol consumption. We used logistic regression to assess possible covariates of high-risk drinking and increased alcohol use. Among 2175 participants, 10% (n = 222) reported high-risk drinking, and 36% (n = 775) reported increased alcohol consumption. In multivariable analysis, high-risk drinking was significantly associated with household job loss (OR = 1.41, 95%CI = (1.06, 1.88)) and depressive symptoms (OR = 1.05, 95% CI = (1.02, 1.07)), and women had higher odds of high-risk drinking than men (OR = 2.37, 95% CI = (1.32, 4.69)). Previous mental health diagnosis was not significantly associated with high-risk drinking during the pandemic (OR = 1.31, 95% CI = (0.98, 1.76)) in univariable analysis. High-risk drinkers were almost six times as likely to report retrospective assessments of increased alcohol consumption, controlling for mental health and economic stressors (OR = 5.97, 95% CI = (4.35, 8.32)). Findings suggest a need for targeted interventions to address the complex mental health and economic stressors that may increase alcohol consumption and high-risk drinking during and after the pandemic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number106854
JournalPreventive medicine
Volume153
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2021

Keywords

  • Alcohol
  • Alcohol use disorder
  • COVID-19
  • High-risk drinking
  • Mental health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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