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Americans Are Drinking 14% More Often During Pandemic, Study Finds

American adults over 30 say they're drinking 14% more often during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a report in the journal <em>JAMA Network Open</em>.
American adults over 30 say they're drinking 14% more often during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a report in the journal <em>JAMA Network Open</em>.

Perhaps it's no surprise, but people are drinking more during the pandemic.

In some cases, by a lot.

American adults say they're drinking 14% more often during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a report in the journal JAMA Network Open. The increase in frequency of drinking for women was more pronounced, up 17% compared to last year.

Instances of heavy drinking among women, which for women was defined as four or more drinks within a couple of hours, spiked by 41%.

The study's participants were aged 30 to 80, so the report does not offer insight on the pandemic drinking habits of younger adults .

The study took a sample of 1,540 adults and compared their self-reported drinking habits this spring with a year prior.

A quick look at social media suggests many people are using alcohol as a way to relax. Whether it's " quarantinis" or Zoom happy hours, Americans seem to find a plethora of reasons to drink during the pandemic.

And as people began going to bars less, retail alcohol sales went up.

Stores sold 54% more alcohol in late March compared the year prior, according to Nielsen. Online sales more than doubled.

Some states like New York, Florida and Texas relaxed laws during the pandemic to allow expanded alcohol delivery.

The study used data collected using the RAND Corporation American Life Panel. The authors note a limitation of the study: its findings are based on self-reported data that could be skewed due to societal expectations. Nonetheless, they concluded more research could be warranted on alcohol use and its psychological and physical effects during the pandemic.

Earlier this year, the World Health Organization European office warned against excessive drinking and even said access should be limited during the pandemic.

Drinking may be even more dangerous now as it can negatively affect the body's immune system, according to the WHO warning.

"Alcohol compromises the body's immune system and increases the risk of adverse health outcomes," the WHO stated. "Therefore, people should minimize their alcohol consumption at any time, and particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic."

Reese Oxner is an intern on NPR's News Desk.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.