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Surge in Alcohol Consumption During Pandemic

As stay-at-home orders began in some US states as a mitigation strategy for COVID-19 transmission, The Nielsen Company reported a 54% increase in national sales of alcohol for the week ending March 21, 2020, compared with 1 year before; online sales increased 262% from 2019. Three weeks later, the World Health Organization warned that alcohol use during the pandemic may potentially exacerbate health concerns and risk-taking behaviors.

Older bodies may respond differently to alcohol than younger bodies. As we get older, it takes longer for the body to break down alcohol. In addition, the amount of muscle in our body gradually goes down and the amount of fat in our body gradually goes up as we age. This causes our vital organs, such as the brain and heart, to be exposed to more toxic effects of alcohol. These are some reasons why people can feel the effects of alcohol longer without increasing the amount they drink. This can increase the risk of having accidents when drinking alcohol, like falling or getting in a car crash.

Many medicines can be dangerous or even deadly when mixed with alcohol. This includes prescription drugs, over-the-counter medicines, and herbal remedies. Many older people take medicines every day and might be more likely to take a medicine that interacts with alcohol. Before taking any medicine, ask your doctor or pharmacist if you can safely drink alcohol while taking your medicine. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism recommends that healthy adults over age 65 should have no more than 7 drinks in a week and no more than 3 drinks in one day.

Should you need guidance concerning an older adult who may be experiencing issues with alcohol:

Contact Seabury Care Management


The Nielsen Company. Rebalancing the ‘COVID-19 Effect’ on alcohol sales. Published May 7, 2020. Accessed August 27, 2020.

World Health Organization. Alcohol does not protect against COVID-19; access should be restricted during lockdown. Published April 14, 2020. Accessed August 27, 2020.

Additionally, Seabury Resources for Aging acknowledges contributions to this article from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA); National Institute on Aging (NIA); and Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).


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