Research & Resources

Factors Impacting Alcohol Use Among College Students During the Covid-19 Pandemic

In this study, researchers investigated how COVID-19 stress-related factors and changes in social engagement during the pandemic contributed to changes in alcohol use among first-year college students. Researchers used data on 439 first-year students (ages 18–20) at a large public university in North Carolina both before (October 2019–February 2020) and after (June/July 2020) the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Prevalence of alcohol use and binge drinking in the past 30 days decreased from 54.2 percent to 46.0 percent and from 35.5 percent to 24.6 percent, respectively; days of use did not change significantly. The decreases were primarily associated with reductions in social engagement. Among COVID-19 stressors and stress, challenges with distance learning were associated with higher alcohol use among those who were already drinking prior to the pandemic. Drinking increased more among those who endorsed using substances to cope, while drinking was not associated with resilient coping. Researchers proposed that unless new drinking habits are formed during the pandemic, decreases in alcohol use among college students are unlikely to be sustained as social distancing measures are removed. Colleges may want to target interventions to students who have responded to stress with increased alcohol use, partly by addressing difficulties with distance learning. 
This paper, “The Effect of Social and Stress-Related Factors on Alcohol Use Among College Students During the Covid-19 Pandemic,” was funded by the National Institutes of Health and published in the Journal of adolescent health.
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