By Christopher Sirota, CPCU
Key Takeaway: Drinking alcohol in the US has reportedly been increasing since the 2000s; pandemic stress and isolation seems to be accelerating this trend even more so for women.
Although the US is not the only country where people drink alcohol alone, an article in The Atlantic provides a detailed overview of the history of the development of an American attitude that often accepts drinking alcohol alone; of concern, experts generally see more negative consequences from solitary imbibement, such as depression. This attitude, it seems, may also be part of the continued increase in consumption of alcohol, especially by women, since the year 2000. During the pandemic, the article highlights, there has been soaring sales in single serve cocktails, self-reporting of significant increases of drinking--often alone due to pandemic isolation--and self-reporting of the use of alcohol to cope with pandemic stress; the article further notes a general increase in the sales of hard liquor during the pandemic.
A related NPR article reports on several drinking studies during the pandemic. One study reportedly revealed that stressed out college students drank more during the pandemic. Several other studies further highlighted that women were increasing their drinking even more than men to cope with pandemic stress. The NPR article underscores that since women typically have less body water, this can cause them to have higher blood alcohol concentration, and thus increase their risk to the ill effects of alcohol which include " hangovers, blackouts, liver disease, alcohol-induced cardiovascular diseases and certain cancers."
In fact, NPR's Shortwave podcast reports (includes transcript) that there has been an increase in advanced alcoholic hepatitis and cirrhosis cases, normally a trend in older men, affecting women under 40 years of age. The podcast notes the trend was noticed by experts pre-pandemic, but during the pandemic it seems the trend has accelerated; at one healthcare location such hospitalization cases have increased during the pandemic by 30 percent; the podcast suggests that many women have been stressed with extra domestic burden during the pandemic, and potential domestic trauma, which is associated with heavy drinking. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not released a report on these types of hospitalizations yet for 2021.
Of interest, The Atlantic notes that beyond pubs--which have been on the decline in the US-- alcoholic beverages are available at a myriad of locations such as supermarkets, coffee shops, zoos and movie theaters.
CNBC further reports that 15 states and DC will now permit restaurants to sell alcoholic cocktails to go permanently; pre-pandemic such sales were illegal, but many places allowed them temporarily during pandemic lockdowns.