Depression increases alcohol consumption during Covid-19 pandemic: Study

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on January 20, 2021

A new study has revealed that people struggling with anxiety and depression are more likely to increase their alcohol consumption amidst the global pandemic.

The study, published in the journal Preventive Medicine, has been carried out by the researchers at NYU School of Global Public Health.

It stated that while drinking grew the most among younger people, older adults with anxiety and depression saw a sharper increase in their risk for harmful alcohol use.

Lead author Ariadna Capasso, a doctoral student at NYU School of Global Public Health said: "This increase in drinking, particularly among people with anxiety and depression, is consistent with concerns that the pandemic may be triggering an epidemic of problematic alcohol use."

The researchers believe that Covid-19 has created many stressors, including isolation and the disruption of routines, economic hardship, illness, and fear of contagion. This has caused a surge in the consumption of spirits during the pandemic.


To understand the pandemic's impact, NYU researchers created and administered an online survey in March and April 2020, using Facebook to recruit US adults from all 50 states.

The researchers asked participants about their alcohol use during the pandemic, gathered demographic information, and measured symptoms of depression and anxiety based on self-report.


Of the 5,850 survey respondents who said that they drink, 29 per cent reported increasing their alcohol use during the pandemic. While 19.8 per cent reported drinking less and 51.2 per cent reported no change.

Notably, people with depression were 64 per cent more likely to increase their alcohol intake, while those with anxiety were 41 per cent more likely to do so.

The study observed that drinking behaviours varied by age. In general, younger adults under 40 were the most likely to report increased alcohol use (40 per cent) during the pandemic, compared to those 40-59 years old (30 per cent) and adults over 60 (20 per cent).

However, older adults (40 and older) with symptoms of anxiety and depression were roughly twice as likely to report increased drinking during the pandemic compared to older adults without mental health issues.

Study author Yesim Tozan, assistant professor of global health at NYU School of Global Public Health said: "We expected that younger people and those with mental health issues would report drinking as a coping mechanism, but this is the first time we're learning that mental health is associated with differences in alcohol use by age."

This can be corroborated by a previous study carried out in 2002 that stated people often drink to cope with stress and traumatic events. The study had seen a significant rise in alcohol consumption right after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Published on January 20, 2021

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