With COVID spreading across America, a new study finds alcohol sales in the United States surged between March and September 2020. Researchers from Columbia University report that while U.S. alcohol retail store sales increased significantly, both restaurant and bar sales dropped dramatically. The findings point to the drastic change in lifestyles for many people during the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns throughout 2020.
While study authors say the results might have been predictable, the results are no less concerning. They add that this suggests home drinking has become the new normal for many Americans during COVID.
Our results appear to substantiate an increase in home drinking during the period, which could potentially lead to higher alcohol consumption and alcohol-related adverse health outcomes,” says first study author João Mauricio Castaldelli-Maia, MD, PhD in a media release.
The Columbia team analyzed data on beer, wine, and liquor store purchases from January 1992 to September 2020, provided by the Monthly Retail Trade Survey. Right from the very beginning of the pandemic, alcohol sales increased. Purchases reached their peak in the year’s third quarter. Between March and September 2020, U.S. retail alcohol purchases soared to $41.9 billion. That’s a 20-percent increase over the same time period in 2019 and an 18-percent increase over the previous seven-month period (August 2019 to February 2020). On a related note, restaurant and bar sales declined by 27 percent between March and September 2020.
In comparison to the first three quarters of 2019, the first three quarters of 2020 generated $7.5 billion more in retail alcohol sales.