Pandemic causing higher levels of drinking among those with mental health issues

The pandemic could be triggering an “epidemic” of alcohol issues among people with mental health issues, researchers have said.

A team from New York University’s (NYU) School of Global Public Health say they have found an association between anxiety and depression and a sharp rise in drinking more.

Study lead author Ariadna Capasso, a doctoral student at NYU, said: “This increase in drinking, particularly among people with anxiety and depression, is consistent with concerns that the pandemic may be triggering an epidemic of problematic alcohol use.”

Previous research has linked stress and an increase to alcohol consumption before.

In 2002, a study carried out showed that New Yorkers drank more after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Back to 2021, COVID-19 has introduced all sorts of feelings among people such as isolation, routine disruption, money worries and fear of contagion.

This most recent trial surveyed 5,850 people who drink alcohol. Of those participants, 29% admitted they had begun to drink more during the pandemic, while 19.8% said they were actually drinking less and 51.2% reported they had not changed their boozing habits.

However, there was a 64% increase among people who were depressed and a rise of 41% among those with anxiety.

The findings also uncovered drinking behaviours varied by age. Younger adults under 40 were the most likely to report increased alcohol, compared to those aged between 40 and 59.

But those who were showing symptoms of depression or anxiety aged 40 and older were twice as likely to be drinking more during the pandemic, when compared to those who did not have any mental health problems.

Professor Yesim Tozan, who was also involved in the research, added: “We expected that younger people and those with mental health issues would report drinking as a coping mechanism, but this is the first time we’re learning that mental health is associated with differences in alcohol use by age.”

The researchers have suggested that mental health and substance use services should be increased during the pandemic to help support those people who are struggling.

The study has been published in the Preventive Medicine journal.

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