Jan. 14, 2021

EXTRA CHEESE: Alcohol Consumption During Quarantine

Becca and Sarah discuss a recent study that shows binge drinking has increased due to the stress triggered by COVID-19. Becca leaves you with some tips for healthier alcohol consumption and discusses a surprising silver-lining for the restaurant industry.

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Taylor & Francis Group. (2020, December 7). New study shows every week of lockdown increases binge drinking. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 11, 2021 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/12/201207091306.htm

SM Weerakoon, KK Jetelina, G Knell. Longer time spent at home during COVID-19 pandemic is associated with binge drinking among US adults. American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, Dec. 7, 2020; DOI: 10.1080/00952990.2020.1832508


Today we are going to cover a topical topic - alcohol consumption in the era of COVID-19. It was a tough call between this news article and another we found titled “Langley woman wants driver fired who 'picked his butt' before handling food”, but I think we made the right decision.


The references for this episode of Extra Cheese include an article in Science Daily called “New study shows every week of lockdown increases binge drinking” and the research study that the article was based on, which was published in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse titled “Longer time spent at home during COVID-19 pandemic is associated with binge drinking among US adults”. And if it isn’t obvious already, we are going to be chatting about recent upticks in alcohol consumption.


I stumbled across a few headlines on this topic, so it is clearly something impacting a lot of us during lockdown, especially with job losses, being confined to our homes, being personally affected by the virus and any associated impact on mental health. The overall finding is that binge drinking has increased due to the stress triggered by COVID-19.


The University of Texas surveyed over 2,000 individuals over the age of 18 (the average age was 42), and they found that males who consumed FIVE or more drinks, and females who consumed FOUR or more drinks rose by 19% for every week the lockdown continued. The max for those binge drinking was an average of 7 drinks per occasion, which is a lot. So the longer we are confined to our homes, the more we are engaging in binge drinking. And of the participants, 32% reported binge drinking since the pandemic began. Thankfully, individuals living with children were 26% less likely to engage in binge drinking.


With this increase, researchers and health officials are looking for interventions and strategies to help those who are binge drinking, especially those living alone during the pandemic. Otherwise long-term health issues may eventually present themselves.


A couple things to remember when you are drinking:

-   If you are going to have alcoholic beverages, have a glass of water between drinks to stay hydrated

-   Eat something before and while drinking – a meal beforehand and snacks like cheese and crackers will help you from getting overly intoxicated

-   Be mindful with the speed and amount you consume. For eg. sticking to singles vs. doubles and mindfully sipping your drinks vs. shots

-   If you think you are experiencing substance abuse, don’t hesitate to get help. The Government of Canada website offers an amazing list of resources, which we will link in the description and show notes.


Future research on this topic should look at the links between depressive symptoms due to lockdown and binge drinking since increased time at home is now considered a life stressor. Of course, it is important to mention the limitations of the study, which are that the results depended on self-reported data; and that time of day was not specified for the recorded binge drinking. Lastly, 70% of participants were considered “high earners” which is a factor that has already been linked to higher alcohol use. A more representative sample of the US population should be analyzed.


I was reading that many restaurant owners are concerned about people partaking in dry January, since many restaurants depend on alcohol sales to stay afloat, especially now that you can purchase them on apps like UberEats. Other sources questioned whether a dry January would cause people to binge in February. The recommendation is to limit alcohol when you can, even if day-by-day. You can support local restaurants by ordering in directly from the restaurant and by purchasing gift cards if you are trying to limit alcohol consumption; also post and tag your favourite spots on social media; and of course, don’t forget to tip!