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COVID-19 Survey Highlights

The proportion of adults who report consuming alcohol in the past month has decreased over the course of the pandemic (from May 2020 to January 2021). And most American adults (87%) remain confident in their ability to drink responsibly with 57 percent rating themselves extremely confident (10 on a 0-10 scale). These survey results show Americans continue to make responsible choices about alcohol 10 months into the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since May 2020 fewer people report consuming alcohol during COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.

  • The proportion of people who reported consuming alcohol over the past 12 months has remained the same (71% in May 2020 vs 72% in January 2021). However, the proportion of people who consumed alcohol within the past 30 days has fallen (79% in 2020, 63% in 2021).
  • The same number of people, about one-in-four adults, report they are drinking more alcohol since restrictions were implemented (23% for May 2020 and 23% for January 2021).
  • Four out of ten (44%) adults say, on average, they are drinking about the same amount since COVID-19 restrictions were put in place, an increase of nine percentage points from 35 percent in May 2020.
  • Boredom (42%), stress (41%), and anxiety (38%) are the most frequently cited reasons as to why people have been drinking more since restrictions were implemented. Of the people who stated they were drinking more during the pandemic, the leading reasons for drinking remained the same although at a slightly declining rate from May 2020 to January 2021.
  • Not being able to go out (34%), personal health (26%), and bars/restaurants closed (23%) are the top reasons why people have been drinking less. Among those who are drinking less, more than one in five people said they are doing so because of stress – an increase of five percentage points from 17% in 2020 to 22% in 2021.
  • Thirty-five percent of those who report they have stopped drinking since the pandemic restrictions were put in place cite personal health reasons.

The proportion of people purchasing more alcohol has remained relatively unchanged over the past eight months.

  • Less than one in four adults say they are purchasing more alcohol since COVID-19 restrictions were implemented (23% in 2020 vs. 22% in 2021).
  • The percentage of people who say they are purchasing the same amount of alcohol increased eight percentage points from 35% in May 2020 to 43% in January 2021. During this same time period the proportion of adults saying they are purchasing less alcohol decreased six percentage points from 25% in 2020 to 19% in 2021.

Most drinking adults have not been overconsuming during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Six out of ten adults who drink say they rarely (32%) or never (30%) overconsume when drinking during the pandemic.
  • Thirty-eight percent of drinking adults self-report they often (14%) or sometimes (24%) overconsume when drinking.
  • Unsurprisingly, those that mention drinking more during the pandemic are more likely to say they overconsume sometimes or often (69%), while those that drink less or the same overconsume rarely/never (77% and 74%, respectively).

Three out of four American adults are not participating in Dry January.

  • One in four respondents (26%) report they are partaking in Dry January.
  • Among those who are participating in Dry January, the main reason cited is for health and wellness (38%). Other leading reasons to participate in Dry January include just something I always do (29%) and managing my stress more mindfully rather than reaching for a drink (28%).
  • More than half of Dry January participants say they are likely to resume drinking in February – 30% extremely, 15% very, and 13% somewhat likely to start drinking again in February. Just over one-third (36%) of those participating say they not likely to return to drinking next month – 12% not very likely and 24% not at all likely.

Americans remain confident in their own ability to drink responsibly.

  • Most American adults (87%) are confident that they drink responsibly (7-10 rating on a 0-10 scale).
  • In comparison to May 2020, confidence remains high and relatively unchanged (86% in 2020 compared to 87% in 2021), however, the proportion who say they are extremely confident (rating of 10) increased significantly (45% to 57%) over the past eight months.
  • Six out of ten respondents (60%) consider 3 or more drinks in a single setting to be over consumption. Seventeen percent consider 5 or more drinks, the government definition of binge drinking, to be overconsumption.
  • A majority of American adults define responsible drinking as not driving after drinking or using alternative transportation after drinking (53%), followed by moderating the amount they drink in one sitting (36%), eating food with alcohol or not drinking on an empty stomach (33%), and only drinking occasionally (32%).

Parents say the stress of the pandemic makes it important to talk to their kids about underage drinking.

  • As life with pandemic restrictions continues an increasing number of parents say the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic makes it more important for parents to talk to their children about the dangers of underage drinking. Fifty-four percent of parents feel the stress of the pandemic makes it more important to talk to their children about the risks of underage drinking an increase of eight percentage points from 46% in May 2020.
  • Only eight percent of parents with children six and older say the stress of COVID-19 makes it is less important to discuss the dangers of underage drinking.

The pandemic has taught Americans the importance of self-care.

  • In terms of what Americans have learned about themselves during the pandemic, 42 percent say that they have learned the importance of self-care, while 32 percent have learned how to cope with anxiety, stress, and/or irritability, and 31 percent have learned they are never too old to learn new things.
  • Additionally, nine percent said they have learned how to drink responsibly, and 11 percent have learned how to have open and honest conversation with their child(ren).

Survey Methodology

The online survey of 1,000 American adults 18 years of age and older was conducted January 26-28, 2021 by APCO Insight, a global opinion research firm. The overall sample reflects national representation on key demographic measures according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The confidence interval for the overall survey sample is ± 3.1 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. A previous wave of this survey using the same methodology and sampling selection was conducted May 4-5, 2020.