Experts say consumers have turned to alcohol more frequently since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic as a way to relieve stress. Unfortunately, researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital believe that this uptick in drinking will lead to more cases of liver disease and will result in more deaths.
The team came to that conclusion after analyzing how consumers’ drinking habits impacted their short- and long-term health outcomes during the pandemic.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has had many unintended consequences with unknown long-term impact,” said Dr. Turgay Ayer. “Our modeling study provides a framework for quantifying the long-term impact of increased alcohol consumption associated with COVID-19 and initiating conversations for potential interventions.”
Pandemic drinking habits can have long-term effects
Overall, the researchers learned that the rate of binge drinking increased by more than 20% over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. They said these drinking habits are likely to significantly impact consumers’ health and longevity in the short term and long term.
If these drinking patterns remain consistent, liver failure is expected to spike by 2,800 additional cases by 2023. By 2040, the team anticipates an extra 1,000 cases of liver cancer and an additional 18,700 cases of liver failure. Alcohol-related deaths were also predicted to increase by 8,000 within the next two decades.
The researchers hope these findings influence policy changes related to binge drinking so that these health outcomes can be avoided.
“While we have projected the expected impact of societal drinking changes associated with the COVID-19 pandemic without any interventions, we hope that our research can help jumpstart needed conversations at every level of society about how we can respond to the many behavioral changes, coping mechanisms, and choices that have short- and long-term implications for the health of individuals, families, and communities in America,” said researcher Jovan Julien.