This Research Snapshot was written by Rossana Coriandoli based on the article, “Drinking to cope with the pandemic: The unique associations of COVID-19-related perceived threat and psychological distress to drinking behaviors in American men and women” which was published in Addictive Behaviors in 2020. Read it below or download the PDF.
Research Snapshots are brief, clear language summaries of research articles, presented in a user-friendly format.
What is this research about?
The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has caused significant social changes that have never been seen before. These changes have included physical distancing, stay-at-home measures and closing schools to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus, as well as high unemployment and numerous deaths.
Studies have shown that survivors of other community-wide disasters have both mental health and substance use problems. Researchers explored whether people’s experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic are associated with drinking behaviour.
What did the researchers do?
A total of 754 adults completed an online questionnaire over a one-week period in April, 2020. Participants were at least 18 years old, had at least 12 alcoholic drinks in the previous 12 months, worked at least 20 hours per week, had a current romantic partner for at least six months, and lived with that romantic partner.
The researchers assessed participants’ feelings of being under threat using responses to the following statements:
- Thinking about the coronavirus (COVID-19) makes me feel threatened.
- I am afraid of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
- I am stressed around other people because I worry I’ll catch the coronavirus (COVID-19).
They assessed psychological distress using responses to the following statements:
- I have become depressed because of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
- The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has impacted my psychological health negatively.
Participants were also asked questions about their drinking in the previous month that covered:
- how many drinks they consumed on the occasion they drank the most in the past month
- how many drinks they drank on a typical evening in the previous month
- how many days of the week they drank in the previous month
- how many times in the previous month they had consumed more than four drinks (if a woman) or five drinks (if a man) within about two hours.
The researchers also explored whether the links between the perceived threat of COVID-19, psychological distress and drinking behaviour were different for men and women.
What did the researchers find?
The researchers found that both men and women drank more often (in general and heavy drinking) in response to pandemic-related stress. This link was stronger for women than men. Interestingly, men drank more than women at low levels of COVID-related psychological distress, but as distress levels increased, women caught up with men.
The results also show that participants whose children lived at home with them drank more than those without children at home.
How can you use this research?
This research may be useful to public health professionals and program leaders looking to develop approaches aimed at reducing drinking during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
Limitations of the research
This research had several limitations. For example, the study looked at associations at a specific point in time (the beginning of the physical distancing measures) and not over a prolonged period.
In addition, participants were American adults who were living with a romantic partner, who were already regular drinkers, and who worked at least 20 hours per week, so their responses may not be representative of other people’s experiences.
About the researchers
Lindsey M. Rodriguez,1 Dana M.Litt,2 Sherry H. Stewart3
- University of South Florida, Tampa, FL, USA
- University of North Texas Health Science Center, School of Public Health, Fort Worth, TX, USA
- Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS
COVID-19, coronavirus, alcohol use, heavy drinking, stress
This Research Snapshot was written by Rossana Coriandoli based on the article, “Drinking to cope with the pandemic: The unique associations of COVID-19-related perceived threat and psychological distress to drinking behaviors in American men and women” which was published in Addictive Behaviors in 2020. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.addbeh.2020.106532