Trajectories of Alcohol Use and Problems During the COVID-19 Pandemic: The Role of Social Stressors and Drinking Motives for Men and Women
Increased alcohol use coinciding with onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly among women, has been documented among U.S. adults. This study examines trajectories of alcohol use and alcohol problems over a 9-month period during the pandemic, the extent to which these trajectories are predicted by social stress and alcohol use motives, and whether results differ for women and men.
Data come from three online surveys of a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults ages 30–80 conducted in May-July 2020, October-November 2020, and March 2021. The analytic sample consists of N = 1118 who initially reported any past year alcohol use. The early-COVID survey assessed demographics, social stressors, and alcohol use motives. All three surveys assessed average alcoholic beverages per day in past month and alcohol use-related problems.
Alcohol use declined for men, but remained stable for women. Alcohol problems increased for both sexes, especially for men. Level of alcohol use was associated with loneliness and social demands for men, and alcohol use motives for both sexes, with changes in use related to loneliness and social demands for men. Level of alcohol problems was associated with loneliness for women and alcohol use motives for both sexes, with changes in problems related to alcohol use motives for women. Interactions of social stress with alcohol use motives were not found.
Sex differences in alcohol use and alcohol problems during the pandemic—as well as their associations with indicators of social stress and alcohol use motives—highlight the importance of tailoring prevention and treatment efforts for men and women.