A study has revealed that the coronavirus pandemic has been stressful for everyone, more so for moms of young kids, who drank 323 percent more alcohol between February to November 2020.
In analyzing the drinking habits of Americans during a most challenging year, RTI International for the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism conducted a study on alcohol consumption in the U.S. The researchers learned that Americans who love to drink indulged in the habit at 39 percent higher than the recommended guidelines.
In the U.S., the general recommendation for alcohol consumption for men is up to 14 drinks per week. In women, the recommendation is a lot less at seven drinks per week. However, the study also showed a glaring detail about mothers with children under five years old as they increased their alcohol consumption by 323 percent.
Coping with Stress
Carolina Barbosa, RTI's health economist, said that mothers more likely turned to alcohol to "cope with the stress, depression and anxiety" of the COVID-19 pandemic. She believes that this is a natural response to an extraordinary situation.
However, she also said that women's drinking habits have been changing and increasing in the last two decades. The relaxed regulations that allowed liquor stores to have curbside pick-up or home deliveries during the lockdowns also made alcohol more accessible to moms.
"Our study suggests the pandemic may only exacerbate that trend," Barbosa said, adding that they observed the trend didn't stick for just two months as it held for "nearly the entire year."
Another study published in the JAMA Network showed that alcohol sales increased to 54 percent at the start of the pandemic in March 2020. About 75 percent of Americans also said that they were drinking more alcohol during the lockdowns.
A study published in the BMJ journal also indicated that the male-female gap of alcohol drinkers has closed in when, historically, it's men who drink more. Along with these findings, experts also learned that alcohol-related deaths or incidents rose to 20 percent in 2020 compared to 2019.
But It's Not Just Stress
Some mothers, however, may have turned to drink because this has been normalized during the pandemic, with various mom influencers on TikTok or Instagram who share their ways of busting stress, including drinking alcohol. According to Psychology assistant professor Dr. Lindsey Rodriguez, personalities that normalize this habit drive other people's habits. It sends out a message to moms that they can drink their stress away because they "deserve" this.
Psychiatrist Dr. Christin Drake said that while the roles of moms have always demanded a lot from them, the pandemic had drawn out "outrageous and unreasonable" expectations when they also took on the role of virtual school teachers. In some cases, women also lean on alcohol to reduce their discomforts and negative feelings since alcoholic drinks have a pleasurable effect, albeit temporarily.
Meanwhile, Barbosa believes that policymakers should prepare for another public health crisis when the increase in alcohol consumption continues, especially if permanent changes to the regulations are adopted. She said that those in authority should learn lessons from the pandemic in ensuring that this potential problem will be averted.
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