Background: Previous investigations suggest that the COVID-19 pandemic effects on alcohol consumption were heterogenous and may vary as a function of structural and psychological factors. Research examining mediating or moderating factors implicated in pandemic-occasioned changes in drinking have also tended to use single-study cross-sectional designs and convenience samples. Aims: First, to explore structural (changed employment or unemployment) and psychological (subjective mental health and drinking motives) correlates of consumption reported during the COVID-19 pandemic using a UK nationally representative (quota sampled) dataset. Second, to determine whether population-level differences in drinking during the COVID-19 pandemic (versus pre-pandemic levels) could be attributable to drinking motives. Method: Data collected from samples of UK adults before and during the pandemic were obtained and analysed: Step1 carried out structural equation modelling (SEM) to explore data gathered during a period of social restrictions after the UK’s first COVID-19-related lockdown (27 August-15 September, 2020; n = 3,798). It assessed whether drinking motives (enhancement, social, conformity, coping), employment and the perceived impact of the pandemic on subjective mental health may explain between-person differences in self-reported alcohol consumption. Step 2 multigroup SEM evaluated data gathered pre-pandemic (2018; n = 7,902) in concert with the pandemic data from step 1, to test the theory that population-level differences in alcohol consumption are attributable to variances in drinking motives. Results: Analyses of the 2020 dataset detected both direct and indirect effects of subjective mental health, drinking motives, and employment matters (e.g., having been furloughed) on alcohol use. Findings from a multigroup SEM were consistent with the theory that drinking motives explain not only individual differences in alcohol use at both time points, but also population-level increases in use during the pandemic. Conclusion: This work highlights socioeconomic and employment considerations when seeking to understand COVID-19-related drinking. It also indicates that drinking motives may be particularly important in explaining the apparent trend of heightened drinking during the pandemic. Limitations related to causal inference are discussed.
|Publication status||Accepted/In press - 17 Mar 2023|
- Mental Health
- Drinking Motives