Colin MacKenzie M.D.
January 5, 2020

Key words: symptoms of alcoholism, substance abuse

Covid-19 and Alcohol Use: What changed?

It has been documented inordinately that Covid-19 has changed life meaningfully. The way we socialize, commute, study, work, shop, and learn.  The way we consume alcohol has also not been spared from the impact of COVID-19. Researchers have noted prominent variations in the patterns and amounts we drink. Different studies have found different results and researchers have proposed varying explanations for their findings. We will discuss the research that has been specifically conducted in the United States.

According to psychology professor Lindsey Rodriguez from the University of South Florida, alcohol consumption has increased for both men and women in response to stressors related to Covid-19. Prior research has demonstrated a link between population-wide disasters and an increase in alcohol consumption as many people drink to cope with the stress that comes with the unwanted changes. Hence, Rodriguez conducted research aimed at examining drinking patterns in response to stressors associated with Covid-19.

Seven hundred fifty-four people across the USA were surveyed using two questionnaires. One questionnaire measured the perceived stress and distress associated with Covid-19 while the other one assessed the drinking habits of participants during the last thirty days. The results of the study found that psychological distress experienced by people during the pandemic was associated with all four measurements of alcohol consumption assessed including: 1. Number of drinks on heaviest drinking occasion, 2) Number of drinks on a typical drinking occasion, 3) Number of drinking days, and 4) Number of drinking days in the past month. Men and women did not differ in COVID-related distress, but men drank more across all four measures. Interestingly, the data also demonstrated “gender convergence” as the level of COVID-related stress increased.  Consistent with prior research, women’s consumption of alcohol increased to a greater extent than men’s consumption as COVID-related perceived threat and distress increased. In other words, for each increase in “unit” of distress, women’s number of drinks consumed (during the heaviest drinking occasion) increased by 13% and by 16% for number of drinks consumed during a “typical” drinking occasion in the prior month.  However, contrary to prior studies, this research further found that people with children in the home had larger increases in alcohol use as compared to people without children at home.  This may not be a surprising finding given that parents are now faced with the burden of 24/7 childcare, homeschooling, as well as prior responsibilities. (Rodriguez, Litt & Stewart, 2020).



Rodriguez, L. M., Litt, D. M., & Stewart, S. H. (2020). Drinking to cope with the pandemic: The unique associations of COVID-19-related perceived threat and psychological distress to drinking behaviors in American men and women. Addictive behaviors, 106532.