INTRODUCTION: Alcohol consumption and risky drinking behavior increased in the early phases of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, but it is not known if and for whom those changes were sustained over the longer term. This study analyzes longitudinal data on drinking patterns during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States.
METHODS: A nationally representative longitudinal survey was used to assess alcohol consumption patterns among respondents 21 years and older who reported drinking between February and November 2020 (N = 557) overall and by subgroups.
RESULTS: Compared with February, drinks per month in April and November 2020 significantly (P ≤ 0.01) increased by 36% and 38%, respectively. The proportion exceeding drinking guidelines significantly increased by 27% and 39%, and increases for binge drinking were 26% and 30% (both P = 0.01). February to November increases in proportion exceeding drinking guidelines were significantly larger for women (54% increase) than for men (32%), and for Black (508%) than for White respondents (16%). Drinks per month significantly increased more for respondents with children in the household (64%) than for those without children (20%). There also was a significantly larger increase in drinks per month for those who reported drinking to cope (57% increase) and those who reported drinking for enhancement (40%) than for those who did not.
CONCLUSIONS: Self-reported alcohol consumption and risky drinking patterns increased during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Monitoring alcohol consumption changes, with a focus on marginalized groups, is warranted to plan behavioral health services and inform prevention for future pandemics.