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Women Increase Drinking During Pandemic

Many reports over the past two years have shown increased alcohol sales and consumption during the pandemic. Increased alcohol use has potential consequences for later increases in morbidity and mortality, due to factors such as alcohol-associated liver disease and immune system effects. Recent data show the pandemic has had a disproportionate effect on women’s alcohol consumption.

A recent CNN news report cites Dr. Sarah Wakeman (Mass General Hospital, Boston), who reports that women have a 41% increase in monthly days of heavy drinking per month, compared to an overall population increase of 14%. Multiple factors have affected women during these challenging times. For example, a recent RAND report finds that, for women, loneliness and a coping motive for drinking were associated with a higher level of alcohol problems early in the pandemic. A separate study, a large cross-national online survey, found that increased alcohol consumption in women was associated with higher educational attainment, living with children, working from home, and psychological distress.

Research and clinical care need to examine and address factors underlying increased alcohol consumption. For women, especially, addressing some of the contributing factors will require societal changes. As stated in a 2020 United Nations policy brief, “Across every sphere, from health to the economy, security to social protection, the impacts of COVID-19 are exacerbated for women and girls simply by virtue of their sex” by “deepening pre-existing inequalities [and] exposing vulnerabilities in social, political and economic systems.”

Disclaimer: The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the Center of Alcohol & Substance Use Studies.