[Study] The Impact of Recent Events on Alcohol Consumption & How to Cope
By Nadya Khoja
Posted: July 26, 2022
The past couple of years have been…difficult to say the least. Since the beginning of 2020, it has felt especially challenging to cope with the barrage of unfortunate news that bombards us on every news feed and media outlet.
What’s more, the impact that these events have on our mental health and wellness can be massive. As we know, since the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, alcohol sales and consumption shot up drastically, with 80% of American adults reporting equal or higher levels of drinking.
In fact, in the report we’re sharing here, we found that on average 33% of U.S. adults are drinking more due to the stressful nature of current events.
And recently, it seems there is even more uncertainty.
Stress levels as well as other triggers to drink more are abundant. From the repeal of Roe. V Wade, to an increase in mass shootings such as Uvalde and Highland Park, it can seem like the only option is to reach for the bottle and drown out the devastating noise.
As a company whose mission is to help anyone who drinks alcohol build healthier habits and ensure they’re focusing on their well-being, we wanted to more deeply understand how some of these recent events have been impacting alcohol consumption, as well as gain insights through personal reflections.Build better drinking habits
The Survey and Methodology
We interviewed 350 Sunnyside members and asked them to tell us on a scale of 1 to 5 (3 being unchanged, 1 being drink much less, 5 being drink much more) how their drinking habits changed as a direct result of the following events:
- The Repeal of Roe v. Wade
- The Uvalde and Highland Park Mass Shootings
- The Uncertainty of the Economy
- The War in Ukraine
We asked respondents to share some insights and elaborate on their responses as well. In this article we will break down some of the results from the study, as well as some methods that you can implement to cope with stressful triggers and stay mindful with your own alcohol consumption.Take the 3-min quiz
The Impact of Roe v. Wade being Repealed on Alcohol Consumption
For anyone who is not familiar, the repeal of Roe v. Wade means that in many states in the U.S. abortion is now illegal. This has had a major impact on women’s rights, and presents growing concern for those identifying as LGBTQ+ as well.
We asked our members how this ruling directly impacted their drinking patterns.
Overall, 43% of respondents stated that the repeal of Roe v Wade caused them to drink more, directly highlighting the causal effect of current events on alcohol consumption. In addition–perhaps not surprisingly–women were more impacted by the ruling.
We asked some of the respondents to elaborate on their thoughts. Here are the words of a few:
“I was very angry to see the Supreme Court repeal Roe based upon logic from the 1800's and remove a woman's right to choose what is best for her based upon religious ideology that not everyone in this country believes in...It’s made me want to drink more.”
“This is one of the largest issues that pushes me to have a couple more at night.”
“I was very upset about this and unfortunately alcohol was a coping mechanism and not a good one.”
“I’ve been gathering with other women to discuss resulting in anger drinking due to sense of futility…”
“I've been very depressed since that day - especially that first weekend. My wife and I drank heavily that weekend. Since that decision was on a Friday it was all we could think about for days, and we couldn't easily take our minds off of it or even relax without alcohol.”
“This is a tough situation as it impacts everyone. It’s been challenging but I haven’t consciously been drinking more due to this ruling, I’ve just noticed a rise in the number of drinks I’ve consumed since the ruling.”Learn how to build healthier drinking habits
The Impact of Recent Mass Shootings on Alcohol Consumption
Unfortunately, Roe. V. Wade getting overturned is not the only cause for concern for many. Recently, mass shootings at Uvalde and Highland Park have caused increases in anxiety for many.
These events have been rising in the U.S. and have had a direct impact on alcohol consumption for many.
In particular, Roe v. Wade and these recent shootings have been the highest direct cause for patterns of excessive drinking among our members at Sunnyside with 48% of members indicating they drank more as a result of mass shootings.
Our members shared their thoughts:
“The insanity of these events triggers my need to drink. It’s all so preventable and it’s frustrating.”
“Another terrible area the country is struggling with. Uvalde was devastating and I did drink more in the few days following the tragedy because I was angry and sad that more innocent people were murdered in such a horrific way.”
“Around the dates of the Uvalde and the Highland shootings, I was with friends, and I think we all stayed up longer talking (and drinking) than we would have had these tragedies not taken place.”
“Definitely a stressor with 2 school aged kids which has caused me to drink more.”Become a more mindful drinker
The Impact of The War in Ukraine on Alcohol Consumption
The third event we wanted to learn the sentiment around was with the current situation in the Ukraine. On February 24th 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine and caused one of the largest refugee crises since World War II.
This war impacts many countries around the world directly and as a result, the economy has been highly volatile.
When we asked our members how this war specifically has impacted their drinking behaviors, here is how they reacted:
Men seem to be more influenced to drink more as a direct result of this war with 37% saying they drank more compared to only 24% of women.
Here are some comments from a few members who we spoke to:
“I have PTSD which war triggers, and a reason I have lost control of my drinking over time, until lately."
“This war is impacting a great number of issues mentioned above as well as the political decisions many respond to. It’s very sad and scary…alcohol helps cope.”
“Drank earlier than usual a couple days while watching the news.”
“This is heartbreaking and with no end in sight, which may inadvertently lead to me drinking more.”
“I have personal friends who are Ukrainian so this just makes me feel terrible in general. Drinking helps with that feeling.”
“News headlines have been depressing and I think led to me drinking more.”
“Just another source of increased anxiety and alcohol helps.”
“The way Republicans ignore the impact this invasion had on gas prices and find ways to blame that on Biden makes me angry, which makes me want a drink.”Want to try mindful drinking?
The Impact of Economic Uncertainty on Alcohol Consumption:
The COVID-19 Pandemic, the War in Ukraine, changes in political powers; these are simply a few factors influencing changes and uncertainty with the economy. Following our questions about the War in Ukraine, we wanted to understand what the impact of general economic uncertainty had on drink habits as well. This includes stock market fluctuations, housing market uncertainty, mass layoffs and gas prices to name a few.
It’s interesting to see how close the data here aligns with the sentiment around the War in the Ukraine. Once again, men seem to be slightly more concerned by the economy with 36% expressing an increase in alcohol consumption.
Here’s what some of the comments were from our members:
“Because I’m retired and my stocks are way down, I don’t have much time to recover. I worry about families that are having a hard time making ends meet. I have heard of people who are paying bills using credit cards and the interest rate is going up. I wonder if our economy will ever recover. Drinking has definitely been a way to deal with anxiety.”
“I have drank slightly more on days being frustrated about the direction we are headed with inflation and an impending recession.”
“It's the combination of inflation, Mass shootings, Ukraine, the Jan 6 hearings and the repeal of Roe that has affected my drinking.”
“Financial stress does impact my drinking and our income is affected by the housing market.”
“I fear my business is struggling and it contributes to my drinking.”
“I want to retire next year, but the market will have to make a pretty significant turnaround for me to be able to do that. Worrying about this is not helping me with my drinking.”
“Again - drinking more because it’s daunting and makes saving money and hope of future happiness futile.”
“Shitty inflation and price creep faster than income growth stresses me out and makes me want to drink.”Take control of your drinking
Methods to Cope with Stressful Events That Don’t Include Drinking
Needless to say many of the events over the past couple of years have been traumatic for many. As a result we feel more stressed, more anxious and seek a way to help cope with this stress.
But when we reach for alcohol as a coping method, many don’t realize that alcohol actually raises our cortisol levels, which contributes to an increase in stress.
So how can we attempt to decrease the feelings of stress and anxiety as we continue to deal with the curve balls this year has thrown at us?
1) Be Mindful With Your Drinking Consumption
We aren’t suggesting you give up drinking altogether, however drinking mindfully means reflecting on what is triggering you to drink.
If you’re compelled to reach for a drink as a way of dealing with a stressful event or to overcome a feeling of anxiety, take a break and try to think about whether it’s really the best solution. If you do have a drink, take it slow and set a limit for yourself.
Alternatively, reach for a non-alcoholic alternative or a calming tea to help ease your nerves.
2) Find Alternative Hobbies to Unwind
Reading fiction is a great way to take your mind off recent events. Let your imagination take you somewhere new as a way to destress. Other activities that help stimulate your creativity also help your brain produce endorphins, serotonin and dopamine (all of which are your brain’s way of improving mood).
Many studies have found that stimulating your creativity can reduce stress, and decrease anxiety. Puzzles, adult coloring books, gardening and painting are just a few examples of creative hobbies to play around with.
3) Take Screen Breaks
What better way to avoid stressful events in the media than to take a break from the main outlet that we receive the news from. Taking breaks from screens lets your mind reset and slow down. When we spend all of our time on a screen, it actually disrupts the normal function of our regulatory mechanisms. The constant light can increase stress to our central nervous system.
Try to go for a walk, meditate, read a book, journal or even just make a snack as a way of breaking the constant screen cycle. Having the separation from your screen can help you process what you’ve been working on as well.
4) Make Time to Exercise and Increase Endorphin Production
Lastly, exercise is one of the best ways to deal with stress. The next time you feel the desire to reach for a drink, reach for a dumbbell instead. Weight training and exercise in general are natural ways to regulate dopamine and serotonin in your mind, which as we’ve expressed are correlated to your mood.
Replace a drink with 10 squats, or 10 bicep curls and see if you still feel compelled to have that extra drink.Start your 15-day free trial
There is no easy way to cope with the frustrations of the past few years. It takes work to feel balanced and happy, and many of these feelings of stress and anxiety are extremely valid.
We designed Sunnyside based on what we wanted to see in an alcohol tracking, planning, and coaching app. We recognize that most people who drink alcohol don’t want to quit, but do want to stay healthy and possibly even cut back a bit.
We also know that triggers such as the current events listed above are real and can be very difficult to work through in the moment. They can truly be painful to bear and thus may lead to an increased desire to drown out the noise with alcohol.
Sunnyside is a system for a healthier lifestyle, and one that can help you maintain balance even when things seem too challenging. Whether life is cruising along and you just need motivation to stick to a daily limit of drinks, or life is impossibly hard and you need help working through emotional triggers like current events, Sunnyside is purpose-built to help you through.
As stated earlier, it’s important to recognize and understand that drinking alcohol will only cause temporary relief. The best way to cope is to focus on your health and happiness, not resort to alcohol. If you're ready to work on your own drinking habits, start your free 15-day trial of Sunnyside.
Nadya Khoja is the Head of Content at Sunnyside. She has been featured on Forbes, CBC, Wall Street Journal, and many other notable publications. She has spoken around the world, educating various business leaders about building and executing scalable marketing strategies.