Shifts in alcohol consumption during the COVID-19 pandemic early indications from Australia
Background and aim: The effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on alcohol consumption is currently unclear. This study aimed to provide early estimates of how stress and demographics will interact with shifts in harmful alcohol consumption from before the COVID-19 outbreak to 2 months into social distancing.
Design: Cross-sectional convenience sample.
Participants: A total of 1684 Australians aged 18–65 years who drink at least monthly.
Measurements: Items from the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) and the stress subscale of the Depression Anxiety and Stress Scale (DASS).
Findings: Overall, harmful drinking decreased during social distancing measures in our sample [2019 score = 8.2, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 7.9–8.4; during the pandemic = 7.3, 95% CI = 7.1–7.6]. Younger drinkers, particularly young women, decreased their consumption the most, but there was a small increase in consumption in middle-aged women. Drinkers experiencing high levels of stress also reported a relatively higher shift in harmful consumption compared with those with low levels of stress (β = 0.65, P = 0.003), despite reporting a small decrease overall.
Conclusions: The closure of licensed premises and social distancing measures in Australia in response to the COVID-19 outbreak appear to have reduced harmful alcohol consumption in younger drinkers, particularly young women.