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Dr. Jeremy Bray (Economics) received new funding from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism for the project “Alcohol consumption and related comorbid conditions: health state utilities for economic evaluation in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a social and health environment that is previously unknown in scope and magnitude. Health effects include mild to severe infection with SARS-coV-2; psychological trauma from living through a pandemic, including anxiety and depression; emotional stress from unemployment, food insecurity, and caretaking; and diminished social well-being due to physical distancing and restrictions in movement. At the same time, alcohol sales have been increasing, and many states have protected access to alcohol through declaring restaurants and liquor stores as essential businesses and authorizing off-premise alcohol deliveries, mixed drinks to-go, and curbside pickup.

The interplay between alcohol consumption and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are as yet unknown: consumption may be changing in response to COVID-19 circumstances and hazardous drinking may be increasing with negative consequences on health and well-being, or consumption changes may be limited to the low-risk end of the spectrum with little or no effect on well-being.

This study will conduct 3 successive cross-sectional surveys of a U.S. population representative sample to assess alcohol consumption, health-related quality of life (HRQoL), and COVID-related conditions at an individual level. The resultant dataset will allow for estimates of the association between alcohol consumption and HRQoL while under different conditions of COVID-19 experiences. It will allow examination of potential heterogeneity across population subgroups—varying COVID-19 conditions, varying consumption, and varying effects of the two. The study will also compare pre and during COVID consumption and HRQoL using prior US data from NESARC-III as a baseline, reflecting population patterns in the 2013-14 period.

As the COVID-19 pandemic is a highly dynamic situation, it is important to collect US population data now to inform behavior in the early stages of response. Our results will inform alcohol policy and will enable accurate evaluation of alcohol interventions in light of the ongoing pandemic.

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