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Pandemic impacts drinking behavior and sales in Oregon and Washington

OLCC reports liquor sales are up in Oregon during COVID-19 but restaurants and bars are suffering big losses. A WSU study looks at changes in drinking behavior.

Galen Ettlin

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A study from Washington State University researchers shows one in four adults changed their alcohol use at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

The study, recently published in Frontiers in Psychiatry, surveyed more than 900 twin pairs from the Washington State Twin Registry from March 26 - April 5, 2020. Washington issued stay-at-home orders on March 23. 

Because twins share more genetics, a study like this could more accurately determine if behavior changes were consistent genetically or caused by outside factors.

About 14% of survey respondents said they drank more alcohol than the week before and reported higher levels of stress and anxiety than those who did not drink and those whose use stayed the same.

“We expected that down the road people might turn to alcohol after the stay-at-home orders were issued," said Ally Avery, lead author of the study. "It shows the need to make sure there is more mental health support since it had an impact on people right away.”

However, the study also showed the 11% of people who decreased their drinking also had higher levels of stress and anxiety.

The study did not ask about reasons for a change in behavior or mood, but Avery said one possibility is these were social drinkers who were missing out on after-work happy hours and other occasions with friends.

Avery said the link between the pandemic, alcohol use, and stress is concerning. Researchers will continue to survey the group to follow the long-term impact.