After two years into the pandemic, we see now more than ever the impact COVID-19 has had on alcohol use in the United States. This is not only evident by the overall increase in consumption, but most notably through the overall increase in sales nationwide. In fact, online sales of alcohol doubled during the pandemic, jumping from 3% to 6%. This is no surprise as most Americans were quarantined at home for approximately two months or more, leading to a huge spike in online sales. The convenience factor of online sales makes it unlikely that we will return to pre-pandemic rates any time soon. Additionally, supermarket sales of alcohol went up by 25% with beer sales having increased by 12.6%, spirits sales by 34%, and wine sales by 31.2%. This is not good news for the health of our nation.
You are probably wondering…who is consuming more alcohol during the pandemic? Here is the unfortunate data: adults with children saw the largest increase during the pandemic, an increase of 11%, which was attributed to both social consumption and binge drinking. Drinking consumption of adults who do not have children in the household rose 4%. Moreover, binge drinking among adults with children in the home rose a staggering 12%, while households with no children rose by 3%. Obviously, a major concern here is youth having greater access to alcohol in their households.
Also impacted were statewide policy changes around the sale of alcohol. Thirty-four states – and counting – have changed their policies to allow some type of on-demand alcohol sales, which include to-go sales at restaurants and delivery through popular apps. With these developing factors (i.e., alcohol in the home, access to delivery apps, and relaxed policies), youth across the nation now have increased access to alcohol. Since it is well documented that increased access to alcohol has the corresponding consequence of increased alcohol use by youth, our concerns are obvious: that the nationwide youth rate of alcohol use will continue to rise as our country continues to struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic and its corresponding increased rates of adult use. Only time will tell if this prediction becomes reality and how this increased usage post pandemic will affect our youth long-term. Needless to say, the field of Prevention has a lot of work to do.