Alcohol Use in Australia During the Early Days of the COVID-19 Pandemic: Initial Results From the COLLATE Project

Psychiatry Clin Neurosci. 2020 Jun 29. doi: 10.1111/pcn.13099. Online ahead of print.


Aims: The effect of social isolation measures used to control the spread of COVID-19 are negatively impacting the mental health of many. One of the consequences of exposure to disasters/pandemics is an increase in alcohol use. The current study aimed to examine what predisposing (distal) and pandemic-related (proximal) factors were associated with increased drinking in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Methods: On the 1st of April 2020, 5,158 Australians completed a survey from the COvid-19 and you: mentaL heaLth in AusTralia now survEy (COLLATE) project, a nationwide study aimed at tracking key mental health concerns. Using logistic regression, distal (demographics and previous drinking behaviours) and proximal factors (employment, lifestyle factors and mood) were assessed for their association with increased drinking since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Results: Distal factors including heavier drinking pre-pandemic, middle age, average or higher income; and proximal factors including job loss, eating more, changes to sleep as well as stress and depression, were all associated with increased drinking in the COVID-19 pandemic environment. Female sex and self-reported history of mental illness became non-significant after proximal measures were added to the model. Living alone, exercise, anxiety or status as an essential or health care worker were not associated with increased drinking.

Conclusions: These results provide guidance as to who might be targeted to receive support based on predisposing demographic factors and pre-pandemic drinking behaviour. Second, they indicate what behaviours/factors accompany increased alcohol use and provide targets for psychosocial and psychoeducational supports to address these proximal factors. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Keywords: COVID-19; alcohol; depression; mental illness; stress.