Study Models Health and Economic Impacts of Increased Alcohol Consumption During COVID-19 Pandemic

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C., Aug. 3, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — A new study by experts at RTI International, a nonprofit research institute, estimates that a one-year increase in alcohol consumption during the COVID-19 pandemic will have a significant impact on health outcomes and hospitalization costs in the U.S.

Specifically, the increase in consumption will result in the loss of 332,000 quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs) and an additional 295,000 alcohol-related hospitalizations from 28 alcohol-related conditions over the next five years, according to the study. The additional hospitalizations will add $5.4 billion in hospitalization costs, with cirrhosis of the liver accounting for $3.0 billion.

The researchers’ estimates were calculated based on the roughly 25.9 million current drinkers with lifetime alcohol use disorder (AUD) in the U.S.

"Alcohol consumption accounts for a significant health and economic burden in the U.S. Unfortunately, the increases in consumption observed during the COVID-19 pandemic will only add to this burden," said Carolina Barbosa, Ph.D., health economist at RTI and lead author of the study. "Our findings highlight the importance of monitoring alcohol consumption and related harms, with special attention to minority groups, who have been disproportionately impacted by these trends."

Using data from a national survey conducted by RTI of U.S. adults on their drinking habits and an individual-level simulation model for individuals with a history of AUD, the researchers conducted three simulations: one scenario of no changes in consumption, another in which the pandemic-driven increases in consumption persist for one year, and a final scenario in which the increases in consumption persist for five years.

Health and cost impacts were more pronounced for older age groups (51+), women, and non-Hispanic Black individuals. The scenario simulating a five-year sustained increase in consumption caused even larger impacts.

Findings were published Tuesday in Addiction.

View the full study

Media Contact: 
RTI Media Relations

SOURCE RTI International