Factors Impacting Coping-Related Alcohol Use During COVID-19 Pandemic

Man passed out with alcohol in his hand
Man passed out with alcohol in his hand
This study provides an empirical examination of coping motive pathways to alcohol problems during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Having school-aged children, depression, and lower social connectedness predicted coping-related alcohol use during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, according to results of a Canadian study published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

Several sources reported sales and consumption of alcohol increased in some areas at the beginning of the pandemic, but whether this alcohol was used as a coping mechanism has not yet been determined.

To evaluate changes in drinking patterns and related factors during COVID-19, data from 320 participants (45.3% women) who had consumed alcohol in the 30 days prior to completion of the survey were analyzed. Survey data was collected between April 30, 2020 and May 4, 2020 regarding behavior that had occurred in the prior 30 days. Included respondents were an average of 32.0±9.2 years of age.

Included respondents were drinking slightly lower quantities (P <.01) slightly more frequently (P <.001) compared with levels prior to the pandemic. A slightly larger increase in solitary drinking was observed during COVID-19 (P <.001) compared with levels before COVID-19. Greater coping motives were associated with having a child <18 living at home (P <.05), depression (P <.001), social connectedness (P <.001), and alcohol consumption pre-COVID-19 (P <.001). Coping motives were then associated with increased alcohol consumption compared to pre-COVID-19 levels (P <.001). Surprisingly, income loss and health anxiety were not significantly associated with coping motives. Greater increases in solitary drinking were observed in men compared with women (P =.003) and non-white participants compared with white participants (P =.001).

The results of this study indicated that there are specific factors associated with coping-motivated drinking and general changes in drinking patterns that have occurred since the declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic. This information may be used to predict changes in drinking behavior as it relates to extreme public health measures.

Limitations to this study include its cross-sectional nature, which inhibits the use of data for temporal analysis. In addition, prepandemic drinking was reported retrospectively, which may result in recall bias. Future longitudinal research is warranted.


Wardell JD, Kempe T, Rapinda KK, et al. Drinking to cope during COVID-19 pandemic: The role of external and internal factors in coping motive pathways to alcohol use, solitary drinking, and alcohol problems [published online September 1, 2020]. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. doi: 10.1111/acer.14425