Excessive alcohol use is a serious and growing public health problem. Alcoholic beverage sales in the United States increased greatly immediately after the stay-at-home orders and relaxing of alcohol restrictions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it is not known to what degree alcohol consumption changed. This study assesses differences in alcohol drinking patterns before and after the enactment of stay-at-home orders.
In May 2020, a cross-sectional online survey of 993 individuals using a probability-based panel designed to be representative of the US population aged 21 and older was used to assess alcohol drinking patterns before (February, 2020) and after (April, 2020) the enactment of stay-at-home orders among those who consumed alcohol in February, 2020 (n = 555). Reported differences in alcohol consumption were computed, and associations between differences in consumption patterns and individual characteristics were examined.
Compared to February, respondents reported consuming more drinks per day in April (+29%, P < 0.001), and a greater proportion reported exceeding recommended drinking limits (+20%, P < 0.001) and binge drinking (+21%, P = 0.001) in April. These differences were found for all sociodemographic subgroups assessed. February to April differences in the proportion exceeding drinking limits were larger for women than men (P = 0.026) and for Black, non-Hispanic people than White, non-Hispanic people (P = 0.028).
There is an association among the COVID-19 pandemic, the public health response to it, changes in alcohol policy, and alcohol consumption. Public health monitoring of alcohol consumption during the pandemic is warranted.