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Increased Alcohol Consumption Among Behavior Changes Linked to COVID-19-Related Stressors

May 14, 2020

Several financial stressors created by the COVID-19 pandemic have been linked to higher odds of experiencing negative health behavior changes, including increased alcohol consumption, according to Flatten the Curve, a national survey developed by digital health company Sharecare and Sandro Galea, MD, MPH, DrPH, dean of the Boston University School of Public Health, and Publicis Health Media.

In addition to alcohol consumption, behavior changes tracked by the survey, which received 115,000 responses in April, included exercise, eating habits and sleep.

Among the survey’s findings with regards to stress induced by the pandemic:

  • 9 in 10 Americans said they are impacted by feelings of worry about the coronavirus
  • 1 in 5 are experiencing severe levels of stress and anxiety
  • 65% are worried about their retirement funds
  • 22% worry the U.S. will enter an extended recession

Each financial stressor covered in the survey—change in pay, likelihood of retaining employment, and ability to pay bills—was associated with higher odds of negative behavior changes. During COVID-19, 22% of respondents said they have increased their alcohol consumption. States with the highest percentage of respondents who said they are drinking more were: Georgia (31%), Washington, D.C. (27%), Massachusetts (26%), New York (26%), and Maryland 25%.

On the positive side, more than 50% of respondents said they are engaging in at least one healthier behavior since the onset of the pandemic.

“Our initial analysis of responses to Flatten the Curve confirms many of our fears—in particular, that our stress and mental well-being is being challenged in a myriad of ways—but also bears some glimmers of hope in terms of many people’s chosen health behaviors,” Galea said in a news release.

“In the weeks and months ahead, we must not only continue to do our respective parts to mitigate the spread of the virus, but also urge organizations to seek innovative solutions to proactively support their populations and the communities they serve to make the healthier choice the easier choice throughout this pandemic and beyond.”

Sharecare has published select results from the survey on its website.

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