The researchers recruited 1308 Finnish employees between 19 to 65 years of age. Between September and October 2019, the sample was assessed using five measurements. These were the AUDIT-C which measures heavy alcohol use, cyberbullying behavior questionnaire, General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12), Maslach Burnout inventory general survey (MBI-GS) and the Copenhagen Psychosocial Questionnaire. 1081 participants of the sample were followed-up between March and April 2020.
The researchers found the following results regarding alcohol intake during the early stages of the pandemic:
- 25.37% of study participants had increased their alcohol intake.
- Over half of those who increased their intake were consuming alcohol heavily (defined as a score of 5 or greater in AUDIT-C in this study).
- 48.02% reported no change.
- 26.62% had decreased their alcohol intake.
- Cyberbullying increased alcohol intake.
- Younger people under the age of 30 and people in professions of business, communication and technology were more likely to be using alcohol heavily during the early stages of the pandemic.
The authors suggest that psychological stressors increase the risk of heavy alcohol use during the pandemic. People are facing more stressors due to the pandemic and its consequences such as fears of unemployment or job loss, caring for children or elders full-time while managing work from home, isolation, loneliness and boredom.
Alcohol and coronavirus pandemic: lethal interaction
Previous research indicates that traumatic events such as natural disasters and terrorist attacks have led to rising alcohol consumption. The COVID-19 pandemic is unique in its combination of physical distancing and the prolonged exposure to trauma. Reports from around the world show that those who have increased their alcohol intake are increasingly consuming alcohol heavily during the pandemic.
The situation is made worse by the alcohol industry exploiting the health crisis for their private profits. A report by the NCD Alliance and the SPECTRUM Research Consortium called “Signalling Virtue, Promoting Harm: Unhealthy commodity industries and COVID-19” exposed how Big Alcohol along with other unhealthy industries turns COVID-19 into the world’s largest marketing campaign. Beyond the alcohol marketing onslaught, Big Alcohol is using the pandemic to weaken alcohol policy measures.
The solution is for governments to improve and develop alcohol policy solutions. As the World Health Organization recommends restricting access to alcohol during the pandemic and lockdown can safeguard people from alcohol harm.