COVID-19 Pandemic Causing Spike in Alcohol Abuse, Especially Within LGBTQ Population

It’s no surprise that ongoing social distancing, mask usage and restrictions to numerous activities we all used to enjoy is driving people to drink more. But several recent studies suggest this spike in alcohol abuse may be hitting the LGBTQ population particularly hard.

In a study conducted at the University of Michigan, researchers found one-third of queer men reported a significant increase in both substance abuse and binge-drinking as a result of COVID-19. Another study of LGBTQ college students reported that 32% of those polled were also drinking more since the pandemic began.

Of course, “drinking increased among the wider population during the pandemic, too, but at a lower rate compared to the LGBTQ community,” reported Finbarr Toesland of NBC News. “Research published in September [2020] found that the frequency of alcohol consumption in the general population since the pandemic started grew by 14% above pre-pandemic levels.”

This figure meshes with data from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which recently found that as many as 13% of U.S. adults had begun using “alcohol, legal or illegal drugs, or prescription drugs” in order to cope with pandemic-related stress or emotions.

Despite that alarming trend among the general public, statistics suggest the increase in alcohol abuse among LGBTQ individuals remains substantially higher, according to the University of Maryland’s John Salerno. 

“We found that those that reported an increase in alcohol use were more likely to suffer from greater psychological distress compared to those that did not report an increase in alcohol use,” he told NBC in an interview.

Salerno and his colleges attribute the increase in drinking among many LGBTQ individuals to a loss of social support, the potential impact of having to move back home due to COVID-19, plus the added stress of harassment and violence that many individuals face, especially in rural or less-populated areas. 

And the problem sadly isn’t new. Even before the time of COVID-19, research already showed that LGBTQ men and women were more likely to develop an alcohol addiction of some type when compared to their heterosexual peers.


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