In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, states issued stay-at-home orders in March 2020. Along with those orders, many states relaxed alcohol regulations—for example, many states started to allow curbside pickup of alcohol. The popular media reported a jump in alcohol sales and anecdotal accounts of increased drinking. But how did alcohol consumption change across the nation? Were people simply having one or two more drinks? Did harmful binge drinking increase? Were the changes greater among some subgroups of the population than others? These are important public health questions because alcohol is one of the leading preventable causes of mortality in the country.
RTI funded a survey of nearly 1,000 Americans in May 2020 to assess changes in alcohol consumption and other measures of mental health from before (February) to after (April) the onset of measures to combat COVID-19. The published manuscript of survey results and conclusions is now available.
During this webinar, we talked about the different ways in which drinking changed during the pandemic and the implications for public health. View the presentation slides and the full webinar recording below.
As RTI experts presented the results of the survey, webinar attendees learned whether:
- The COVID-19 pandemic is associated with increased alcohol consumption.
- The increase in drinking behavior is higher for certain genders, ethnicities, and regions.
- There is a need for public health monitoring of alcohol consumption during the pandemic.
Even though this study indicated an increase in alcohol consumption among Americans, one study is not enough to confirm a trend. The National Institutes of Health recently awarded RTI a contract to conduct a secondary study to expand understanding of how the pandemic is affecting drinking trends.