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Are You Drinking Too Much During the Pandemic?

red wine being poured into a glassTell me if this sounds familiar. When the pandemic first began, you enjoyed an occasional glass of wine to ease the tension of long days spent at home. As the lockdown wore on, that infrequent glass of wine, or two, slowly turned into a daily occurrence to fend off the stress of social distancing. So, are you drinking too much during the pandemic?

tray of cocktails with striped straws

Women Are Drinking More Alcohol 

If the strain of COVID-19 is showing up in your drinking habits, you’re not alone. Research shows that since the start of the outbreak, American adults, especially women, are drinking more, and on more days. The study also uncovered a sharp, 41% increase in women’s binge-drinking, defined as downing at least four drinks within two hours.

Is the coronavirus pandemic to blame for women drinking more? One study found that women’s drinking was directly related to their concerns about COVID-19. However, the recent rise in women’s alcohol intake is part of an overall increase in drinking in recent years.

Let’s face it: 2020 has been particularly difficult. Many women are carrying a heavy load as they juggle working at home (or losing their job), schooling their children, and managing the household. Women may also be experiencing  financial stress and caring for elderly parents.

It’s easy to understand the attraction to alcohol as a way to forget about what’s going on in your house and in the world, if only temporarily.  Plus, it’s socially-acceptable to unwind with wine, beer, or cocktails. Yet, drinking as an emotional crutch tends to backfire. Once the initial buzz wears off, excessive alcohol intake is just part of an endless loop that makes fear, anxiety, and depression worse, not better.

Nearly 1 in 5 American adults say their mental health is worse than it was at this time last year.

How much alcohol is OK to drink for women? 

Mod­erate drinking, which is less than or equal to one drink a day for women (no more than two drinks a day for men), is OK for most adults. Some people should avoid alcohol, including pregnant women.

Heavy drinking is eight drinks or more weekly for women and 15 drinks or more for men. To determine how much alcohol you’re drinking, you need to know the definition of a “drink.”

In the U.S., a drink is defined as one of the following. Each of the these drink choices contains about the same amount of alcohol. Certain microbrews and some wines may have a higher alcohol content.

• 12 ounces of regular beer

• 5 ounces of wine

• 1½ ounces of 80-proof spirits, such as vodka, gin, or rum

If you’re in doubt about your alcohol intake, measure it. To help you stay within the moderation guidelines, don’t refill your glass until it’s empty.


Drinking from large glasses can lead to excess alcohol intake.


Why women should drink less alcohol during the coronavirus pandemic 

Drinking alcohol will not protect you against COVID-19 and it may make matters worse if you do get sick. Drinking affects your health in more ways than one, however. Here’s how alcohol can influence your wellbeing during the pandemic, and at other times.

• According to the World Health Organization, alcohol consumption, especially heavy use, weakens the immune system, reducing your ability to fight off bacteria and viruses, including coronavirus.

•Heavy drinking increases the risk of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), one of the most severe complications of COVID-19.

Alcohol is a depressant, and it can intensify the effects of medications that also slow down the central nervous system, such as antidepressants, pain killers, and sleep aids.  Over-the-counter medications and herbal supplements can become less effective, or more potent, when mixed with alcohol.

• Wine, beer, and cocktails offer little more than extra calories and may contribute to “quarantine” weight gain. Alcohol reduces your resolve to limit portions of fatty, high-calorie foods, such as ice cream, chips, and cookies, which may cause you to consume more calories than you need. Being overweight is a potential risk factor for infection by coronavirus.

• Alcohol interferes with deep, restful sleep, which is already a challenge for many women, especially those over 40. Sleep deprivation saps your energy, makes pandemic stress seem harder to deal with, and reduces resistance to infection.

• Drinking may result in memory loss and shrinkage of the brain.

Excessive drinking results in impaired judgement that could jeopardize decisions about your health during the pandemic.

How to drink less alcohol 

There’s no immediate end in sight to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, but it won’t go on forever.  Instead of drowning your sorrows, find coping mechanisms that involve less or no alcohol.

If you drink, keep your drinking to a minimum and avoid getting intoxicated. You may want to consider giving up alcohol completely. Quitting could be the path to feeling calm and peaceful, according to a new study.

Get regular physical activity, which strengthens the immune system while relieving stress. Walk, run or bike in nature whenever possible, even in the winter.  When you can’t get outside, search the internet for free exercise videos.

man and woman walking hand in hand down snowy path

Find some “me” time every day.  Take just 10 minutes here and there to be present.  Slow, deep breathing can calm the mind and soothe frazzled nerves. Here’s a free guided breathing exercise to try.

Ask for help from family and friends. Seek social support that’s safe and doesn’t focus on alcohol, like a Zoom mocktail party with friends on a regular basis.

Talk to your healthcare provider if you are having trouble in your relationships or in how you think and feel.  Or contact the National Drug and Alcohol Treatment Referral Routing Service at 1-800-662-HELP to get information about treatment programs in your local community and to speak with someone about alcohol problems.

Glass with red wine









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