Background: The COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown have a strong impact on health and health behaviours, such as alcohol consumption. Although there is some evidence of an overall decline in alcohol consumption during the lockdown, studies also show an increase in risky drinking patterns, e.g. solitary drinking, and differences between subgroups of individuals, e.g. depending on their living arrangement. Yet most studies rely on cross-sectional designs with retrospective questions, and small samples.
Methods: A longitudinal study was conducted using 13 waves of the COVID-Questionnaire within the Lifelines cohort from the northern Netherlands (n = 63,194). The outcome was alcohol consumption (glasses per week) between April 2020 and July 2021. Linear fixed-effects models were fitted to analyse trends in alcohol consumption, and these were compared with pre-COVID drinking levels. Moreover, the role of living arrangement and feelings of social isolation as potential moderators was tested.
Results: Alcohol consumption during the pandemic was lower than in previous years, and the seasonal pattern differed from the pre-COVID one, with levels being lower when lockdown measures were stricter. Moreover, the seasonal pattern differed by living arrangement: those living alone saw a relative increase in drinking throughout tight lockdown periods, whereas those living with children showed the strongest increase during the summer. Social isolation showed a weaker moderation effect.
Conclusions: Overall alcohol levels were down in the pandemic, and in particular during strict lockdowns. Those living on their own and those who felt more isolated reacted more strongly to the lockdown, the longer it lasted.
- Alcohol consumption
- Living arrangement