COVID-19 related employment change is associated with increased alcohol consumption during the pandemic

Sitara M. Weerakoon, Katelyn K. Jetelina, Gregory Knell, Sarah E. Messiah

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: The COVID-19 pandemic has had sweeping impacts on income and employment. Previous research has indicated that loss of employment is associated with mental illness and increased alcohol consumption. However, no studies have explored this relationship in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. Objective: The purpose was twofold: (1) Evaluate the association between pandemic-related employment status and alcohol consumption and (2) assess the interacting effect of depression and employment change on alcohol consumption. We hypothesized that (1) employment change would be associated with increased alcohol consumption during the pandemic and (2) the combined effects of depressive symptoms with pandemic-related-employment-change would strengthen the association with alcohol consumption. Methods: A self-report, web-based survey collected information on sociodemographics, COVID-19-related employment impact (e.g., decreased pay, laid off), change in alcohol consumption since the pandemic, reasons for consumption change, and depressive symptoms. Multinomial regression modeling explored the associations between variables. Results: One-third (33%) of participants (n = 2,441; 67% female) reported consuming more alcohol compared to pre–pandemic and 11% reported that COVID-19 had a negative impact on their employment. Participants reported drinking more alcohol due to having more time (28%) or boredom (22%). The adjusted odds of increased alcohol consumption were 47% greater among those who reported negative employment impact compared to those who reported no employment impact (AOR: 1.47, 95% CI: 1.03–2.11); depression did not moderate this relationship. Conclusion: Given the pandemic’s far-reaching impact, the potential for alcohol harm is demonstrably great. Mitigating consumption should be considered when addressing loss of employment in this context.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAmerican Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse
StateAccepted/In press - 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Alcohol consumption
  • COVID-19
  • depression
  • pandemic
  • unemployment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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