April 21, 2021 – Even before the pandemic began, some Americans were drinking significantly more alcohol than they had in decades past — with damaging consequences. In 2020, researchers at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (N.I.A.A.A.) found that from 1999 through 2017, per capita consumption increased by 8 percent and the number of alcohol-related deaths doubled, many caused by liver disease. The trends are particularly concerning for women: Whereas the number of men who reported any drinking stayed mostly the same, the proportion of women who did so increased 10 percent, and the number of women who reported binge drinking, or consuming roughly four or more drinks in about two hours, increased by 23 percent. (For men, binge drinking is about five or more drinks in that period.) Current dietary guidelines consider moderate drinking to be at most one drink a day for women and two for men.

So researchers were understandably apprehensive when, early in the pandemic, alcohol sales spiked. They were especially concerned about women, because similar quantities of alcohol affect them more adversely than men, making them more likely to suffer injuries from accidents and to develop chronic illnesses like liver and heart disease and cancer. But it was unclear whether increased sales would translate into increased consumption. Perhaps Americans were hoarding alcohol as they were toilet paper.



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