CAMH survey looks at binge drinking, financial anxiety during pandemic

binge drinking

A recent survey of about 1,000 Canadians suggests heavy drinking is highest among younger people and those worried about personal finances due to the pandemic.

The survey conducted between May 8 and 12 and commissioned by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health shows nearly 30 per cent of those between 18 and 39 reported heavy episodic drinking at least once in the previous week.

A Statistics Canada report in 2018 reported similar data, saying the highest proportion of heavy drinking was among those aged 18 to 34, with almost 29 per cent of people in that age group reporting binge drinking.

In the CAMH survey run by research firm Delvinia, nearly 24 per cent of the total number of respondents reported heavy episodic drinking, or binge drinking, which for women is considered four or more drinks on one occasion and five or more drinks for men.

Those who are very worried about the impact of COVID-19 on their personal finances were more likely to report binge drinking at 28 per cent, than those who were “somewhat worried” at 25 per cent.

Researchers at the center say the findings from the recent online survey of English-speaking Canadians can’t be attributed to COVID-19 and participants were not asked about their pre-pandemic consumption of alcohol.

Dr. Hayley Hamilton, senior scientist with the center’s Institute for Mental Health Policy Research, said it’s likely that younger survey respondents had pre-existing issues involving alcohol considering previous findings

But she said alcohol may be used as a coping mechanism for those whose careers may have been sidelined due to the pandemic, creating unprecedented uncertainty about their future work prospects.

She said the impact on their social lives, with summer activities such as concerts being cancelled, could also be a factor for those who may be lonely and drinking more.

Women, parents and younger adults are more likely to feel anxious and depressed during COVID-19, according to the survey, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

It suggests disadvantaged groups, including those that have borne the social and economic burdens of the pandemic, are faring worse than others.

Health-care workers and others who have a job that exposes them to a higher risk of getting COVID-19 are more likely to report feeling lonely compared with other groups, according to the survey.

It suggests those who have switched to working from home are more likely to have moderate to severe anxiety levels compared with others. (www.globalnews.ca)

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