This study surveyed 1000 American participants during the COVID-19 pandemic between April and September, 2020. The study found that hazardous alcohol use, probable alcohol dependence and severe alcohol use disorder increased for those under lockdown. For those not under lockdown alcohol use problems remained unchanged.


William D. S. Killgore (email:, Sara A. Cloonan, Emily C. Taylor, Daniel A. Lucas and Natalie S. Dailey


Killgore, W., Cloonan, S., Taylor, E., Lucas, D. and Dailey, N., 2021. Alcohol dependence during COVID-19 lockdowns. Psychiatry Research, 296, p.113676.

Psychiatry Research
Release date

Alcohol Dependence During COVID-19 Lockdowns


Introduction and method

To determine whether the past half-year of COVID-19-related lockdowns, stay-at-home orders, and social isolation were associated with changes in high-risk alcohol use, a total of 5,931 individuals completed the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) at one of six time points from April through September 2020.

Results and conclusion

Over the 6-month period, hazardous alcohol use and likely dependence increased month-by-month for those under lockdowns compared to those not under restrictions. This increase in hazardous alcohol use and related behaviors is likely to have prolonged adverse psychosocial, interpersonal, occupational, and health impacts as the world attempts to recover from the pandemic crisis.

Research in context

In the study, the researchers surveyed 5,931 adults from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, between April and September 2020. Each month, roughly 1,000 participants completed the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT), a 10-item questionnaire that is used to detect alcohol problems in adults.

The AUDIT provides a score between 0 to 40. Scores from 8 to 14 suggest hazardous alcohol consumption, a score of 15 or more indicates the likelihood of alcohol dependence, and a score of 20 or more implies severe alcohol use disorder.

The study found that people under lockdown had an increase in all three thresholds of the AUDIT. Compared to April, in September 2020:

  • Hazardous alcohol use increased from 21% to 40.7%
  • Probable alcohol dependence increased from 7.9% to 29.1%.
  • Severe alcohol use disorder increased from 3.9% to 17.4%.

For all three thresholds, the percentages for those not under lockdown restrictions were essentially unchanged.

Lead author Dr. Killgore, notes that younger people were most likely to have increased alcohol use during the pandemic.

We found that younger people were the most susceptible to increased alcohol use during the pandemic, which could set them on the dangerous path toward long-term alcohol dependence,” said Dr. William Killgore, lead author of the research, as per Eureka.

Dr. William Killgore, lead author of the research

Increased alcohol use during lockdown could also lead to other social problems such as aggressive behavior and domestic violence. The effects on families and children due to alcohol products can be devastating during the ongoing pandemic.

Being cooped up with family for weeks and months without a break can be difficult, but when excess alcohol gets mixed in, it can become a recipe for increased aggressive behavior and domestic violence,” said Dr. William Killgore, lead author of the research, as per Eureka.

I worry about the effect on families and children.”

Dr. William Killgore, lead author of the research

Source Website: Science Direct