Indiana University-Bloomington's Dr. Hank Green recently confirmed that adults are turning to alcohol with increasing frequency during the coronavirus pandemic. Green, an associate professor in the School of Public Health— along with Michael Pollard and Joan Tucker of The RAND Corporation—published their joint findings in the journal JAMA Network Open on September 29, 2020.
The survey study, "Changes in Adult Alcohol Use and Consequences During the COVID-19 Pandemic in the US," noted that alcohol consumption went up by 14% overall and by 17% for women. What's more, alcohol use in the 30-to-59 age group increased by 19%.
The researchers used nationally representative, probability-sampled data from the RAND Corporation American Life Panel (ALP). ALP subjects aged 30 to 80 consented to participate, and researchers compared pre-pandemic alcohol use (April 29 to June 9, 2019) with alcohol use from the period when COVID-19-related social distancing measures were widely in place (May 28 to June 16, 2020). Dr. Green and his colleagues intend to conduct the longitudinal surveys one year apart for a total of four years.
Although much is presently known about the impetus behind adolescent drinking, the work by Green, Pollard, and Tucker marks the first nationally representative study of adult social networks and substance use. The study was funded by a grant from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
The institute is also funding a supplemental study to assess possible links between the social network changes, physical isolation, and loneliness relative to the COVID-19 pandemic and changes in mental health, physical health, and alcohol use in people aged 30 to 80.
In addition, Green, Pollard, and Tucker hope to gauge the potential impact that social networks may have on these changes overall as well as in terms of sex, age, and race/ethnicity.
"Their current findings—not to mention those of the work that is still to come—have truly broad public health significance," says Dean David B. Allison. "We're very excited to see where it leads and how other researchers will choose to build upon this new base. Our School's motto is 'It's About Knowing', and this research is a beautiful exemplar."