NEW YORK, Dec 8 — Research suggests that harmful drinking among adults increases the longer they spend at home in lockdown.
A study carried out by researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Centre School of Public Health examined the relationship between hazardous drinking and life stresses triggered by the covid-19 pandemic.
Their work suggests the need for new interventions and prevention strategies to avoid serious long-term health consequences.
The consequences of the public health crisis — in particular, stay-at-home mandates and social distancing — on mental and physical health are a major concern for health authorities and healthcare professionals.
Now, researchers based in the US have studied the impact of stress relating to covid-19 and periods of lockdown and excessive alcohol consumption in adults.
They analysed data from an online survey of 1,982 American adults from mid-March to mid-April, coinciding with the first US state-wide stay-at-home order on March 19.
Based on their answers, participants were classed as binge drinkers, non-binge drinkers and non-drinkers.
Other factors analysed were the length of time spent in lockdown, how many adults or children they were living with, current or previous episodes of depression, and job status related to lockdown such as decreased pay.
Published in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, the research highlights for the first time the relationship between hazardous drinking and life stresses triggered by the covid-19 pandemic, and especially the associated lockdowns.
In fact, the findings show that the odds of heavy alcohol consumption among binge drinkers rose an extra 19 per cent for every week of lockdown.
The researchers define binge drinkers as those who, within two hours, consumed five or more drinks for men and four or more for women.
They also observed that, during the pandemic, binge drinkers drank an average four drinks per occasion, compared to two drinks among non-binge drinkers.
Participants who drank at harmful levels during the pandemic would consume a maximum of seven drinks on one occasion.
The researchers also found that living with children in lockdown minimally reduced the odds of turning to alcohol in general.
“Future research should consider the potential for depressive symptoms acting as a moderator (a factor that changes the impact) in the relation between the time spent under a shelter-in-place mandate (lockdown) and binge-drinking,” say the study authors.
While the researchers themselves highlight the limitations of their study — such as the fact that the survey data was self-reported — they still call for new strategies, especially for people in isolation at risk of hazardous drinking. Otherwise, they say, there could be long-lasting health consequences. — AFP-Relaxnews