Study on drinking alcohol in young adults and the psychological impacts of COVID-19 produces unexpected findings

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A new longitudinal study on alcohol abuse in young adults and the psychological impacts of COVID-19 has revealed some unexpected findings that challenge preconceived notions about pandemic-related alcohol consumption.

In a sample of about 500 aged between 18 and 25, the researchers saw a reduction in the problematic consequences of alcohol and drinking during the initial phase of the pandemic, for both men and women. This contrasts with many anecdotal reports about the increase in household consumption and the increase in household spending on alcohol during this time period.

However, the additional findings that showed an increase in the rates of symptoms of anxiety and depression were more surprising. —Increases that were not observed to a significant degree among male participants.

“These results reveal the complexity of the impacts of the pandemic,” said lead author James MacKillop. MacKillop is the director of the Peter Boris Center for Addiction Research at McMaster University and St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, as well as a professor of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience at McMaster.

The researchers suspect that restrictions on socialization contributed to the reduction in risky alcohol consumption observed in this age group. With a declining proportion of individuals living with roommates or in group living, the influence of peers (usually a strong predictor of alcohol abuse) has diminished.

“Study participants were , who usually drink inside “Said Meenu Minhas, lead author of the study and postdoctoral fellow at the Peter Boris Center for Addiction Research.” If you bring bars, restaurants and group events, such as parties, it’s no wonder that excessive drinking in this group goes down as well. “

In contrast, the reported increase in mental health symptoms in the study illustrates some of the negative consequences associated with the pandemic. Among study participants, women showed a substantial increase in the chances of meeting the clinical depression threshold since pre-intra-pandemic. No similar effect was found in male participants.

“We saw high levels of stress, irritability and sadness related to the pandemic, which unfortunately women felt most strongly,” Minhas said.

“While certain public health measures were important in controlling the spread of the virus, the benefits of social support and interaction, which often act as buffers against the effects of stress, have also been reduced due to the pandemic, “MacKillop explained.

The pandemic-related loss of income was also attributed to the increase in depression scores, with those who reported loss of income above 50 percent experiencing a significant increase in depressive symptoms. Researchers see this as a direct link between and adverse mental health outcomes. They argue that government strategies that provide financial aid can effectively act as an antidepressant when it comes to pandemic impacts on mental health.

Other studies on substance use during the pandemic have tended to use cross-sectional designs, so they do not take into account changes over time. Instead, the present study used a longitudinal design that followed the same cohort before and during the study .

“Collectively, these results indicate the importance of critical thinking and of taking into account population subgroups when it comes to the psychological impacts of COVID-19,” MacKillop said. “Instead of increasing or decreasing evenly, it is becoming increasingly clear that subgroups will show very different patterns, including negative and, in some cases, positive changes.”


The COVID-19 pandemic severely affects the mental health of young people


Citation: A study on drinking alcohol in young adults and the psychological impacts of COVID-19 produces unexpected findings (2021, June 3) retrieved June 4, 2021 at https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-06 -heavy-young-adults- psychological-impacts.html

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