This is particularly problematic for people who live in areas where there are stay-at-home orders, especially for young adults, men and people who have lost their jobs.
“Being under lockdown during a worldwide pandemic has been hard on everyone, and many people are relying on greater quantities of alcohol to ease their distress,” said William “Scott” Killgore, a professor of psychiatry in the University of Arizona’s College of Medicine and director of the university’s Social, Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Lab.
“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,” he said in a university news release.
Killgore’s team led a six-month study from April through September, in which nearly 6,000 adults from all 50 states and Washington, D.C., were surveyed. Each month, about 1,000 people completed the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test, a 10-item questionnaire that detects hazardous drinking in adults.
The questions asked about the quantity of alcohol consumed, behaviors associated with dependence, and harm resulting from alcohol use. Scores range from 0 to 40. A score from 8 to 14 suggests hazardous alcohol consumption, 15 or more indicates likelihood of alcohol dependence and 20 or more suggests a severe alcohol use disorder.
For people not under lockdown restrictions, percentages stayed the same.
But for those under lockdown, hazardous alcohol use rose from 21% in April to 40.7% in September, and probable dependence rose from nearly 8% to just over 29%. Severe dependence rose from nearly 4% in April to 17.4% by September. Hazardous alcohol use and likely dependence increased every month for those under lockdowns compared to those under no restrictions.
Increased alcohol use can lead to numerous health problems, including increased risks of cancer, liver disease, injury, mental health problems and early death. It can be a problem for the entire family, the researchers said.