A new survey by the Research Triangle Institute International (RTI) shows alcohol use is rising in the USA amidst COVID-19. It seems the lockdown and movement restrictions in the country is making alcohol users consume more at home which will have serious ramifications for the future.

The Research Triangle Institute International (RTI) conducted a poll in May, 2020 on 993 people from various regions of the United States. They found the following results:

  • 27% reported increased average units of alcohol per day per person.
  • Frequency of exceeding alcohol use guidelines increased by 21%.
  • Binge alcohol use increased by 26%.

Regarding consumers who increased their daily alcohol use, the poll found:

  • 16% of respondents increased their usual quantity by an average of two units of alcohol; and
  • 27% increased the total amount of alcohol consumed on “more than usual” days by 4.5 units.

According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) a unit of alcohol is considered to be 0.6 ounces of alcohol, or roughly a 12-ounce beer, 5-ounce glass of wine or 1.5 ounces of an 80-proof liquor. The defined levels of alcohol consumption recommend men should consume no more than two drinks of alcohol per day and/ or 14 units per week, while women should consume no more than one drink per day and/ or seven units of alcohol per week.

It has been established that only no amount of alcohol leads to zero health harms, while any other amount increases the risk of alcohol harms proportionately.

Inequality in alcohol harms

As is the usual case with alcohol harm, it is affecting people in the United States unequally. Minorities and women are at higher risk of increased alcohol consumption during COVID-19 according to RTI.

As Movendi International previously reported women, specifically middle aged women, are more susceptible to the idea of using alcohol to “cope” with stress and anxiety. This is one reason why Big Alcohol is targeting their marketing towards women during COVID-19.

There were also geographical differences in the increase in consumption of alcohol. Respondents from Western states consume far more alcohol than those from Midwest, Southern and Northern states of the country.

Dr. Carolina Barbosa, one of the RTI researchers involved in the study, says the increase in alcohol intake in Western states could be due to changes in laws. Movendi International reported on several US states that weakened alcohol policy systems for example concerning alcohol delivery and alcohol take away as well as other measures that undermine the protective effects of alcohol laws. Western states such as California were among the first to weaken alcohol laws along with COVID-19 lockdown measures. This could have affected the much faster increase in alcohol consumption in these states compared to others.

Dr. Barbosa has warned if high alcohol consumption remains in the country there will be serious implications. This could mean increased chronic diseases such as cancer, hear diseases and diabetes, and alcohol use disorder in the long run and injury and violence in the short-term. Considering the pattern of at-home consumption of alcohol due to the pandemic, domestic violence poses a significant threat. Alcohol is known to fuel domestic violence and with the movement restrictions women and children could be locked in with their abusers. Adding alcohol to the situation was like adding fuel to a fire.

For further reading from the newsfeed

USA: Big Alcohol Uses COVID-19 to Change Alcohol Laws

Source Website: The Business Journals