Stay-at-home orders were issued in March 2020 to flatten the curve of infection during the COVID-19 pandemic, and they remained in place through early 2021 to get us through the start of vaccine distribution. Those orders brought with them relaxed alcohol regulations – for example, many states started to allow curbside pickup of alcohol. Simultaneously, many people found themselves with more isolated time at home due to unemployment, quarantine, or working from home. How did this influence alcohol consumption across the nation? And have those changes persisted as people have started to leave their homes, go back to work, go to restaurants, and attend public events? Alcohol remains one of the leading preventable causes of mortality in the country, so it’s critical for public health officials to understand the scope of this issue.
In the summer of 2020, we presented the results of an RTI-sponsored survey of nearly 1,000 individuals conducted in May of 2020. The first survey showed overall increases in alcohol consumption, and that women, people with minor children in the home, and Black Americans differentially increased their drinking in the short term after COVID-19 started. The current NIAAA-sponsored study re-surveyed respondents to the first survey, providing unique longitudinal data from February 2020 to November 2020. In this webinar, we revealed our findings on whether, and for whom, the early patterns of increased alcohol consumption have been sustained over the longer term, and the implications for public health.
During the webinar, attendees learned:
The COVID-19 pandemic is associated with a sustained increase in alcohol consumption, overall and across several groups. The largest increases in consumption were observed in Black and Hispanic women, Black men, people with children, and those with mental health problems who drink to cope or for enhancement.
The largest increases in consumption were observed in Black and Hispanic women, Black men, people with children, and those with mental health problems who drink to cope or for enhancement.
More women than men exceeded recommended drinking guidelines between April and November 2020.
Public health monitoring of alcohol consumption during the pandemic is warranted.
Meet our Experts
Dr. Carolina Barbosa is a health economist and decision scientist at RTI International. Her research focuses on epidemiological modeling, outcomes research, and economic evaluation of substance use interventions. She currently serves as the principal investigator on a National Institute of Health (NIH) grant to establish a link between drinking patterns, health consequences, and alcohol treatment effectiveness and cost-effectiveness. She has a PhD in Health Economics from the University of York in the UK.
William N. Dowd is a research economist in RTI’s Behavioral Health Financing, Economics, and Evaluation program. He conducts research and evaluation on issues related to substance use disorder, especially alcohol and opioids. He is currently pursuing a PhD in health economics and policy from Lancaster University in the UK.
Dr. Katherine Karriker-Jaffe is the director of RTI International’s Community Health & Implementation Research Program. Dr. Karriker-Jaffe is an expert in behavioral health, particularly alcohol and substance use disorders, with an emphasis on racial/ethnic, socioeconomic, and sexual identity disparities. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the School of Public Health, University of California Berkeley, and currently leads National Institutes of Health-funded work that addresses neighborhood influences on substance use disparities.