Government data released recently show that alcohol use in Austria increased during the first COVID-19 lockdown in the general population. Meanwhile, studies are still being conducted to see how the pandemic affected people with alcohol use disorders.

The Competence Center Addiction of Health Austria conducted the “Austrian Representative Survey on Consumption and Behaviors with Addiction Potential 2020” on behalf of the Ministry of Health. Through this study they found worrying trends in alcohol use during the first COVID-19 lockdown in Austria between March and May, 2020:

  • 71% reported no changes to alcohol use patterns.
  • 13% reported an increase in alcohol use and 16% reported a reduction in alcohol use.
  • The increase in consumption was similar for both genders.
  • More men reported a decrease in alcohol use (19%) compared to women (13%).
  • Younger people changed their alcohol use pattern more than older people. 17% have increased alcohol use, while 27% reduced use.
  • Older people over the age of 65 showed the least change in alcohol use (10%) with 4% increasing use and 6% decreasing use.
Increase in alcohol use in Austria during the first lockdown
Austrian Ministry of Health data show a 13% increase in alcohol use during the first lockdown from March to May, 2020.

Supplementary results from the second lockdown show that the change in alcohol use patterns during the first lockdown in Austria was short lived. The number of people who increased their daily or almost daily alcohol use increased sharply during lockdown and then fell back to previous levels.

The effects COVID-19 had on Austrians with alcohol problems such as alcohol use disorders are still being assessed. Current Austrian data show that 15% of Austrians over 15 years of age suffer from alcohol use problems.

The rising alcohol use during COVID-19 lockdowns is driven by increased anxiety and stress among people due to the pandemic and the alcohol industry targeting these vulnerabilities with their marketing. A report by the NCD Alliance and the SPECTRUM Research Consortium exposed how Big Alcohol along with other unhealthy industries turns COVID-19 into the world’s largest marketing campaign. 

Early on in the pandemic the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended reducing alcohol availability to curb the COVID-19 pandemic and reduce potentially severe complications of the virus. The WHO also specifically advised to not use alcohol as a coping mechanism during the pandemic. Instead they suggested activities which are promoting mental and physical health to support ourselves and loved ones during this time.

A groundbreaking report detailed recently the lethal interaction of alcohol industry products and practices with the COVID-19 pandemic.

  1. Alcohol increases the health and societal problems arising from the pandemic. For example, alcohol weakens the immune system and makes people more susceptible to infections. And alcohol-centric social contexts have been COVID-19 super spreader events. 
  2. Alcohol increases the burden on healthcare and emergency services which are already stretched due to the COVID-19.
  3. The alcohol industry exploits the pandemic to change alcohol laws to their private benefit.

Sources “Corona has changed the drinking behavior of the Austrians” [Translated from German]

ORF TVTHEK: “Alcohol consumption increased during lockdown” [Translated from German]