In-Person Contacts and Their Relationship With Alcohol Consumption Among Young Adults With Hazardous Drinking During a Pandemic
Social distancing strategies such as “stay-at-home” (SAH) orders can slow the transmission of contagious viruses like the SARS-CoV-2 virus, but require population adherence to be effective. This study explored adherence to SAH orders by young adults with heavy alcohol use, and the role of alcohol consumption with in-person contacts on adherence.
Analyses included young adults with heavy alcohol use (i.e., AUDIT-C score ≥3/4 for women/men; n = 50; ages 18–25) participating in a randomized trial in Pittsburgh, PA. Participants provided experience sampling reports on alcohol use twice per week from the week before SAH orders started on April 1, 2020 through 6 weeks during the SAH period. The researchers examined how in-person contact with non-household friends changed over time and event-level relationships between alcohol consumption and in-person contacts.
The percentage of participants with any in-person contact in the week before SAH was 44% (95% confidence interval [CI] 30%–59%), which decreased to 29% (95% CI 15%–43%) in the first SAH week and increased to 65% (95% CI 46%–85%) by SAH week 6. Controlling for average levels of alcohol consumption, on days when young adults consumed alcohol, participants reported more in-person contacts compared to non-alcohol using days.
Preliminary data indicate that, among young adults with heavy alcohol use, adherence to public policies like SAH orders is suboptimal, declines over time, and is associated with alcohol use events. Interventions aimed at enhancing young adults’ adherence to social distancing policies are urgently needed.