Alcohol consumption increased amid coronavirus impacts, USF study finds

By The Numbers

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – Alcohol consumption is suspended at Florida bars, but that won’t stop people from drinking, a new study says.

In a survey from the University of South Florida St. Petersburg conducted between April 17 and April 23, Professor Lindsey Rodriguez wanted to explore a snapshot in time of how psychological distress associated with increased coronavirus and drinking.

“We know from research that people drink in times of stress to cope with changes associated with that experience,” Rodriguez said. “The next natural step for us was to examine drinking habits during the lockdown.”

More than 750 people, with an average age of 42, were surveyed.

Participants were asked to either agree or disagree with statements related to the perceived threat and psychological distress around coronavirus throughout the previous 30 days. Those statements included:

  • “I am afraid of the coronavirus”
  • “I am stressed around other people because I worry I’ll catch the coronavirus”
  • “The coronavirus outbreak has impacted my psychological health negatively” 

“I read business-related articles about alcohol sales increasing,” Rodriguez said. “I remember wondering if those sales meant people were drinking more in general or drinking more at home since bars were shut down. That motivated us to look into the psychological changes that might cause people to change their drinking habits.”

Approximately 40 percent of respondents said that they at least somewhat agreed that their drinking increased since the pandemic began impacting the United States.

Researchers found that the male respondents drank on more, however, women eventually surpassed the amount of alcohol consumed by men as stress increased. A 16 percent increase in the number of typical drinks consumed for women compared to a 1 percent increase in typical drinks consumed for men.

Among the findings of the study, parents self-reported increased drinking behavious during stay-at-home orders.

“The presence of children in the home during the pandemic is related to increased drinking behavior among American adults,” the study reads. “Our finding is particularly interesting given the increased burden that many parents are feeling as they navigate their own job as well as home-schooling their children. It is possible that having children in the home to care for and educate during the pandemic increases role overload, which has been linked previously with heavier alcohol use.”

The resarch will be published in peer-reviewed journal, Addictive Behaviors.

During the early days of the country’s lockdown, a Nielson study found that US sales of alcoholic beverages rose 55 percent in the week ending March 21. Online alcohol sales were up more than 240 percent. 

Pre-mixed cocktails along with tequila, gin, and other spirits had sales jump 75 percent compared to the same period last year. Wine sales were also up 66 percent and beer sales rose 42 percent.

The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation issued an emergency order on Friday suspending the sale of alcohol for on-premise consumption at bars, or businesses that “derive more than 50 percent of gross revenue from the sale of alcoholic beverages.”

Businesses are allowed to continue selling alcohol in sealed containers to be consumed off-premises.

“Based on recent increases in COVID-19 cases and non-compliance with previous orders, DBPR has taken action to suspend on-premises alcohol sales at bars,” DBPR Secretary Halsey Beshears said in a statement. “DBPR believes this is a necessary step to take to protect public health as we continue working in partnership with industry and health officials to combat COVID-19.”

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