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Drinking Habits

How Has Alcohol Use Changed After the COVID-19 Pandemic?

July 19, 2023
7 min read
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Written by
Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
July 19, 2023
7 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
July 19, 2023
7 min read
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
July 19, 2023
7 min read
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Reframe Content Team
July 19, 2023
7 min read

As the final rays of daylight surrender to twilight, the image of a tantalizing wine bottle poised on the kitchen counter surfaces in our minds. It's been a taxing day — no, a taxing year — brimming with back-to-back Zoom meetings, virtual schooling, and continually unsettling news cycles. The glass of wine feels like a much-needed reprieve, a comfortable corner in our pandemic-stricken lives.

The seismic repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic have left their mark not just on our day-to-day routines, work-life balance, and social dynamics but have also significantly altered our relationship with alcohol. Let's explore the impacts of the pandemic on alcohol use (and misuse) patterns.

The Soaring Trend of Alcohol Consumption

A striking shift observed during the pandemic was the upsurge in alcohol consumption, with a pronounced spike among adults who had previously grappled with depression and anxiety. The ominous cloud of uncertainty and fear cast by the virus, coupled with the lockdown measures that spurred social isolation, led to heightened stress and anxiety levels. For millions of people, alcohol transformed into a comforting antidote as they tried to escape from the turbulent reality swirling around them.

The Combination of Boredom and Availability

The pandemic’s stay-at-home orders nudged the world's populace to grapple with an often overlooked adversary: boredom. For many of us, it became a challenge to fill our days productively. Parallel to this was the surge in the accessibility of alcohol, with the United States observing a colossal 243% increase in online alcohol sales during the pandemic's initial phase. This intersection of heightened boredom and easily-accessible alcohol made it simple to reach for a bottle.

The Rise of Virtual Socializing

Traditional in-person socialization took a back seat due to essential public health measures, paving the way for the rise of virtual gatherings. From family reunions to friendly hangouts, and even workplace happy hours, these events often normalized and sometimes even endorsed the presence of alcohol, subtly advocating drinking at home. Moreover, this trend has also ushered in blurred demarcations between professional and personal time, potentially leading to escalated alcohol use.

Deteriorating Mental Health

The pandemic has left a profound impact on our collective mental well-being, with an increased incidence of depression, anxiety, and stress. In the face of such adversity, alcohol has morphed into a form of self-medication for many, even though overconsumption can amplify these mental health challenges. This vicious cycle breeds a "hidden wave" of mental health concerns, underscoring an escalating pattern of alcohol misuse.

Stepping Into Empowerment

Knowing the reasons why our alcohol use may have increased during the pandemic is one thing — but what do we do about it? Here are some suggestions:

  • Recognize the risks. The journey of change begins with self-awareness. Acknowledging that increased alcohol consumption brings health risks is the first step towards cultivating a healthier relationship with alcohol.
  • Harness support. If we find ourselves wrestling with feelings of stress, anxiety, or depression, we should seek help from mental health professionals. They offer a valuable toolkit with strategies that can enhance our coping mechanisms.
  • Establish healthy coping mechanisms. We can choose to replace alcohol as a stress response with healthier alternatives like exercise, meditation, or pursuing hobbies that spark joy and relaxation.
  • Develop clear boundaries. Creating clear boundaries between our work and leisure time is essential. This prevents overwork and burnout, and it helps us relax without relying on alcohol.

We recognize that the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly redefined our alcohol consumption patterns, even three years after its onset. Yet, we are far from powerless amid these changes. By comprehending these shifts and employing strategies to sustain a healthier relationship with alcohol, we can navigate these challenging times. Remember, reaching out is not a sign of weakness, but rather a testament to courage.

Take Control of Your Overall Well-Being With Reframe!

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually, with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

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Plus, we’re always introducing new features to optimize your in-app experience. We recently launched our in-app chatbot, Melody, powered by the world’s most powerful AI technology. Melody is here to help as you adjust to a life with less (or no) alcohol.

And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today!

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At Reframe, we do science, not stigma. We base our articles on the latest peer-reviewed research in psychology, neuroscience, and behavioral science. We follow the Reframe Content Creation Guidelines, to ensure that we share accurate and actionable information with our readers. This aids them in making informed decisions on their wellness journey.
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