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Survey helps quantify increases in drinking during pandemic

Many national news stories about spiking liquor sales have suggested that Americans are drinking more alcohol now than before the coronavirus pandemic began. But a recent RAND Corporation survey backs up those reports with some sobering statistics.

The survey included 1,540 members of the RAND American Life Panel, a nationally representative group of adults who are regularly interviewed online. They were asked about their alcohol consumption during the spring of 2019 and again a year later in the spring of 2020, during the early months of pandemic-related shutdowns.

Women in particular seem to have been triggered by pandemic-related stress to drink more, and more often. Female survey participants reported increasing their heavy drinking behavior – defined as having four or more drinks within a couple of hours – by just over 40%.

Overall, the survey found that frequency of alcohol consumption increased by 17% among women, and by 14% among adults over age 30. The total increase was 19% among all adults aged 30 to 59, and 10% among non-Hispanic white adults.

“We’ve had anecdotal information about people buying and consuming more alcohol, but this is some of the first survey-based information that shows how much alcohol consumption has increased during the pandemic,” said Michael Pollard, a RAND sociologist. “Alcohol consumption can have significant negative health consequences, so this information suggests another way that the pandemic may be affecting the physical and mental health of Americans.”

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