Study finds pandemic-era alcohol use increased most among high-earning young adults 

A new survey from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health details which populations experienced the greatest change in alcohol use during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a press release this week. The survey found that higher-earning, younger adults increased drinking the most. 

A three-part, or waves, survey conducted by researchers with the Survey of the Health of Wisconsin (SHOW) polled people throughout the state, asking them about their drinking habits during the pandemic. The three waves took place between May–June 2020, between January–February 2021, and in June 2021. Each survey saw 1,400–1,900 respondents. 

Researchers noted that the people who increased drinking the most were adults ages 21 to 40, especially those with a bachelor’s degree or greater, those in the highest income group, and those who reported working remotely due to COVID-19. 

People with children younger than 18 were the most likely population to drink more during the COVID pandemic, with 21% and 35% reporting drinking more compared to 13% to 18% by people with no children younger than 18. 

People with a bachelor’s degree or greater were also more likely to report increased drinking during the pandemic. In this population, 19% to 28% reported drinking more compared to 13% to 15% of people with a high school diploma equivalent or less during the same time points. 

Overall, drinking in Wisconsin rose for a significant portion of the survey participants during the pandemic, but the trends changed over time with drinking rates highest in the first wave and declining in subsequent periods. 

In the first wave, 23.2% reported higher alcohol consumption in the last 60 days compared to their pre-pandemic drinking habits. In the second wave, 18.8% of participants reported higher alcohol consumption compared to July 1, 2020, and in the third wave, 15.3% of participants reported higher alcohol consumption compared to Feb. 1, 2021.