The COVID-19 pandemic that started in early 2020 had a devastating impact on people’s mental health globally. As per a scientific brief released by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2022, the pandemic resulted in a 25 percent increase in anxiety and depression worldwide.
COVID-19 became not just a physical threat but also a mental one. Its widespread effect on the global population resulted in growing cases of anxiety and mental health problems.
To deal with the physical challenges posed by COVID, people had to wait for some time. This was when the COVID-19 vaccine was still under development and not ready for mass use. As for dealing with the anxiety and mental challenges of COVID, many have switched to alcohol for temporary relief.
USA Today reported that one out of five Americans resorted to heavy drinking to cope with the pandemic stress. A year before this report, another study conducted by Rand Corp. revealed that alcohol consumption in the U.S. rose by 14 percent during the pandemic.
The result of this excess alcohol consumption was an increase in deaths across the United States and various other countries. According to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the alcohol-induced death rate in the country increased by 26 percent between 2019 and 2020.
Canadian news portal CBC News reported a similar increase in alcohol-related deaths in Canada during the pandemic. Here, the alcohol-induced death rate increased by 18 percent between 2019 and 2020.
Having established all that, one question still remains. Why did people turn to alcohol and grow so dependent on it during the pandemic to the point where it cost them their lives?
Why Alcohol Abuse Grew During the Pandemic
A CNN report suggests that various mental health problems resulted in an increase in global alcohol consumption. The report goes on to highlight the fact that people turned to alcohol when they were forced to stay indoors and unable to socialize as they otherwise could. For people struggling with substance abuse and alcohol addiction before the pandemic, things were much worse.
While every individual might have different reasons for turning to alcohol during the pandemic, the main reasons why alcohol abuse grew during this time can be discussed as follows:
- Social isolation prevented people from socializing, and they turned to alcohol to overcome the feeling of loneliness and isolation.
- Lockdowns enforced in various parts of the world restricted people from going out, which is why they saw drinking as a way to “enjoy” themselves while being stuck inside their houses.
- People’s lifestyles during the pandemic became monotonous, which is why many turned to drinking for the occasional burst of thrill and enjoyment.
- Uncertainty about the future of the pandemic, as well as their personal lives, forced many to turn to alcohol as a means of coping with the growing stress.
The Toll on Relationships
The toll drinking takes on your relationships is another avenue that one must explore to fully understand the long-term impacts of alcohol abuse.
When you are living with an alcoholic spouse, their drinking habits can impact your relationship. An alcoholic partner can disrupt the other person’s life in the name of consuming alcohol as one of their coping mechanisms.
However, they are completely oblivious to the fact that consuming alcohol can lead to not only health problems but also other relationship problems, including verbal and physical abuse, domestic violence, separation, etc.
When parents are involved in alcohol abuse, their children have to bear the consequences. This often means that the parents are neglectful of their child’s needs or are oblivious to their existence entirely. A lack of care is noticed among parents who are alcoholics, and as a result, they often fail to provide general care to their children.
On the other hand, when parents have to deal with alcoholic kids, especially teenagers and young adults, they have a hard time trying to establish authority over them. This means that alcoholic children are likely to be disobedient to their parents and unwilling to cooperate with them. As a result, even when parents want to help these children, they fail to do so because of a lack of cooperation.
Health Risks of Alcohol Consumption
Alcohol consumption and abuse can lead to a variety of health risks which can be divided into short-term and long-term risks. Let us break these risks down for your understanding.
Short-Term Health Risks of Alcohol Consumption
- Injuries caused by careless drinking
- Violent behavior, including physical abuse
- Alcohol poisoning
- Miscarriage or stillbirth in pregnant women
- Risky behaviors, such as unprotected sex or sharing of needles, can lead to more health problems, including HIV
Long-Term Health Risks of Alcohol Consumption
- Heart disease which can further cause high blood pressure and stroke or vice versa
- Liver disease and digestive problems
- Cancer in various parts of the body
- Weakened immune system
- Weak memory
- An increase in mental health problems, including anxiety and depression
Every year, over three million people die due to harmful alcohol use. At least 140,000 of these deaths take place in the U.S. Underage drinking kills 3,500 people in the U.S. each year. Most alcohol-related deaths are due to liver problems, which is why it is vital that you drink responsibly and, if possible, try to quit entirely.
The Burden on the Economy
For many, the road to recovery from alcoholism is blocked by the high costs associated with alcoholism treatment. The fact that most insurance coverages are insufficient and limited and fail to cover the treatment costs is another reason why recovering from alcohol addiction is difficult for many. As a result, the economy has to bear a heavy burden.
According to the CDC, alcohol addiction costs the U.S. economy $249 billion a year. Out of that amount, $27 billion is spent on healthcare costs alone. Apart from direct financial losses, the economy also has to deal with lost productivity which leads to additional financial losses.
Research shows that people with alcohol addiction miss 32 work days each year due to various reasons stemming from their addiction. This lost productivity hampers economic growth as the workforce fails to deliver at its maximum potential.
The Way Forward
One of the most effective ways to prevent alcohol abuse is by limiting its access to a certain extent.
During the pandemic, many local and state governments in the U.S. permitted the home delivery of booze. Many of these governments are now looking to make this a permanent thing. However, doing so will only increase alcohol consumption. Such policies must be avoided.
Instead, the government authorities need to crack down on underage drinking and stop the supplies of illegal alcohol. Stricter policies must be in place to further prevent alcohol companies from promoting their products to a wide audience, especially teens.
As for the general public, they need to find better ways to cope with their stress and anxiety. In this case, they must realize that therapy is a far better option than diving into alcoholism. At the same time, they must realize the dangers alcoholism poses and the impact it can have on our daily lives.
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