Americans did more drinking at home during the early months of the coronavirus pandemic, which researchers say may be linked to a rise in domestic violence and other problems.
"Our results appear to substantiate an increase in home drinking during the period, which could potentially lead to higher alcohol consumption and alcohol-related adverse health outcomes," said study first author Dr. João Mauricio Castaldelli-Maia, a postdoctoral fellow in epidemiology at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health in New York City.
Between March and September 2020, beer, wine and liquor store sales totaled $41.9 billion -- 20% higher than during the same months in 2019 and 18% higher than between August 2019 and February 2020, his team reported.
Meanwhile, restaurant and bar sales dropped 27% between March and September 2020, according to the study published online recently in the journal Alcohol.
In September 2020, restaurant and bar sales were about 15% below pre-pandemic levels, while beer, wine and liquor store sales were 17% higher and have since stayed close to that level.
When researchers compared beer, wine and liquor store sales in the first three quarters of consecutive years between 1992 and 2020, the greatest change was a $7.5 billion increase between the first three quarters of 2019 and 2020.
Excessive drinking at home could be an unhealthy way of coping with stress about pandemic-related issues such as quarantine and an uncertain future, the researchers said.
They also pointed out that drinking at home has been linked with domestic violence.
"During the pandemic, increases in alcohol use at home could potentially exacerbate the effects of social isolation on domestic violence," Castaldelli-Maia said in a university news release.
He noted that U.S. police departments reported a 10% to 27% increase in domestic violence calls during COVID lockdowns. The calls came from wide-ranging locations from Alabama and Texas to Oregon and New York. Castaldelli-Maia said it is, however, unclear whether home drinking played a role.
Senior author Dr. Silvia Martins, an associate professor of epidemiology, said there is still much to learn about pandemic-era alcohol use. Nonetheless, he said, it is important to warn people about the risks of increased home drinking.
"It is also important to investigate alcohol use behaviors among individuals at high risk of infection by SARS-CoV-2 such as frontline workers and among those living alone for longer isolation periods," Martins said.
The U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism suggests rethinking drinking.
SOURCE: Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, news release, Aug. 19, 2021