WSU researchers find alcohol use changed immediately following stay-at-home orders

SPOKANE, Wash. — A study led by Washington State University researchers found one in four adults reported a change in alcohol use almost immediately after stay-at-home orders were issued.

The study surveyed more than 900 twin pairs from the Washington State Twin Registry from March 26 to April 5, just after the COVID-19 lockdown was enforced in Washington on March 23.

According to researchers, about 14 percent of survey respondents said they drank more alcohol than the week prior and reported higher levels of stress and anxiety than those who did not drink alcohol and those whose use stayed the same.

“It shows the need to make sure there is more mental health support since it had an impact on people right away,” Ally Avery, lead author of the study and a scientific operations manager at WSU Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine, said.

Meanwhile, the study showed that the 11 percent who decreased their drinking also had higher levels of stress and anxiety than the groups with no change. This finding suggested that any change in alcohol consumption may be associated with mental health issues.

Researchers did not study the reasons behind the link between a decrease in drinking and increase in mental health issues, but Avery said one possibility is that these were social drinkers who were missing out on happy hours and other social occasions with friends.

The researchers are continuing to survey this group at longer intervals to see if the increased drinking persists and whether it becomes a more serious problem.

READ: How to maintain your mental health as the pandemic continues