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The Pandemic’s Boozy Binge: America’s Increased Alcohol Consumption

Americas Increased Alcohol Consumption During the Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic brought about a new normal for the entire world, and with it, new coping mechanisms. In one way or another, the pandemic affected almost everyone, and people had to find ways to deal with the stressors that came with it.

Unfortunately, one of the coping mechanisms that people chose was increased alcohol consumption.

Increased Alcohol Sales During the Pandemic

Data shows that Americans drank more alcohol during the pandemic than ever before. Isolation, unemployment, quarantine, and other pandemic-related stressors were some of the reasons why people bought more alcohol.

According to Nielsen data, alcohol sales increased by 55% in late March 2020 when many Americans were under shelter-in-place orders. Online liquor delivery services also saw a surge in sales since people couldn’t buy alcohol at bars, restaurants, or traditional liquor stores.

The surge in alcohol sales was also due to the fact that people were buying larger pack sizes.

Larger Pack Sizes of Alcohol Purchases

Since people were spending more time at home, larger pack sizes of alcohol purchases became popular. According to Nielsen data, boxed wine sales were up by 34.4% and 1.75-liter spirits had an increase in sales of 33.8%.

The larger pack sizes allowed people to stock up for longer periods and reduce visits to stores to buy smaller packs, which meant less exposure to the virus. The large volume of alcohol consumption increased the number of alcohol-related problems reported.

Popular Alcohol Choices During the Pandemic

While beer and wine have always been popular choices, newer alcohol trends became popular during the pandemic. Hard seltzers and cocktails were two such trends.

From 2019 to 2020, the US hard seltzer market grew by 160%, reaching $4.1 billion in sales. The pandemic contributed significantly to this growth since hard seltzers are easy to make at home and low in calories.

Cocktails also became popular because people had more time to experiment in the kitchen and get creative with their drinks. Bartenders and mixologists even began offering virtual cocktail classes.

Binge Drinking During the Pandemic

Unfortunately, some people went beyond a healthy limit of drinking, leading to increased binge drinking during the pandemic. Binge drinking is a pattern of excessive alcohol consumption that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels to 0.08 g/dl or higher.

Binge drinking can cause severe alcohol-related problems, and during the pandemic, it became more prevalent. According to a survey conducted by the RAND Corporation, Americans’ frequency of binge drinking increased by 19% during the pandemic.

Factors Contributing to Increased Alcohol Consumption

There were many reasons why Americans drank more during the pandemic. Some of these reasons include:

Stress

Stress is one of the leading factors associated with increased alcohol consumption. Pandemic-related stress was widespread, resulting in a 55% increase in alcohol sales in late March 2020, when many Americans were under shelter-in-place orders.

Alcohol Availability

With people confined to their homes and bars and restaurants shut down, alcohol retailers and e-commerce platforms started seeing increased traffic. Alcohol delivery services saw a surge in orders since people were reluctant to leave their homes due to the pandemic.

Boredom

With the sudden shift in lifestyle brought about by the pandemic, people had a lot of free time on their hands.

Boredom contributed to increased drinking, especially since people had more time to experiment with new drinks and cocktail recipes.

Mental Health Concerns Related to Increased Alcohol Consumption

Alcohol consumption has been linked to a myriad of mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, and stress. With increased alcohol consumption during the pandemic, mental health professionals have expressed concerns.

Drinking habits may have changed for some individuals, and increasing alcohol intake may have worsened pre-existing mental health conditions. Seeking treatment from a mental health professional may help with alleviating some mental health issues.

The pandemic has brought about various challenges that people have had to face. As such, it is important to take inventory of our coping mechanisms and identify those that are not sustainable.

Drinking as a coping mechanism, as seen with the increased alcohol consumption during the pandemic, can have adverse consequences. It is important to acknowledge these consequences and choose healthier coping mechanisms, reach out to a trusted friend or professional if necessary.

Wanting relief from the stressors in life is only human, and seeking help is a sign of strength.

Changes in Alcohol Regulations During the Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic forced the government to implement strict public safety mandates in an effort to curb the spread of the virus. One of the industries affected by these mandates was the alcohol industry.

In response to the changing market dynamics, some states relaxed alcohol regulations, allowing liquor stores and restaurants to take advantage of alcohol to go policies.

Relaxation of Regulations Allowing Alcohol Sales

Historically, the sale of alcohol has been heavily regulated. With the onset of the pandemic, the government relaxed these regulations, allowing alcohol sales to continue despite the pandemic’s restrictions.

Many restaurants and bars began offering carryout and delivery of beer and cocktails while some states expanded their alcohol delivery services. By loosening regulations, however, the government was met with backlash from some interest groups and local officials, leading to a patchwork of rules on alcohol to go.

Impact on Alcohol Industry

Despite the challenges brought on by the pandemic, alcohol sales rebounded in many areas. While some states saw a drop in overall alcohol sales, due to reduced alcohol demand in bars and restaurants, others saw an increase in overall sales.

The alcohol industry had to shift its focus from hospitality settings to retail, leading liquor stores to secure more value and adapt to the online marketplace. To cater to the changing consumer needs, alcohol brands started offering virtual tastings and events.

However, with the reopening of bars and restaurants, liquor stores may still face competition.

Studies on Increased Alcohol Consumption

The COVID-19 pandemic impacted various aspects of life, and one such area was increased alcohol consumption. Studies have shown that people drank more during the pandemic, leading to adverse consequences, particularly on an individual’s mental health.

JAMA Study on Overall Increase in Alcohol Consumption During Pandemic

One study conducted by the American Medical Association’s JAMA Network Open analyzed alcohol consumption trends among adults in the US during the pandemic’s early stages. It found a significant increase in alcohol consumption among adults, with women having the highest increase by 41%.

While alcohol consumption increased overall, the study found no increase among binge drinkers.

International Journal of Environmental Research Study on Binge Drinking

Another study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health focused on the impact of pandemic-induced stress on binge drinking. This study found that stressful events, such as those brought on by the pandemic, can lead to binge drinking, especially in individuals with pre-existing mental health conditions.

In conclusion, the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way we live our lives and forced us to find new ways to cope with the stressors that came with it. Unfortunately, alcohol consumption became one of these mechanisms, leading to an increase in overall alcohol consumption and adverse consequences.

While some states relaxed alcohol regulations to provide relief to the industry, alcohol brands adapted to the changing market dynamics, leading to a rebound in sales. However, with the reopening of bars and restaurants, challenges for liquor stores may persist.

It is important to acknowledge the challenges of increased alcohol consumption during the pandemic and to seek help if necessary. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected almost everyone in one way or another, and one of the ways that individuals coped with it was through increased alcohol consumption.

Americans drank more alcohol during the pandemic, leading to adverse consequences such as increased binge drinking. Changes in alcohol regulations were relaxed to allow alcohol sales to continue despite the restrictions.

The alcohol industry adapted to changing market dynamics, leading to a rebound in overall sales. It is important to acknowledge the challenges of increased alcohol consumption during the pandemic and to seek help if necessary.

The takeaway is to find healthier coping mechanisms and consider the consequences of alcohol consumption.

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