COVID-19 and Mental Health (CMH) Initiative: Research

Alcohol Consumption and the COVID-19 Pandemic: Synthesizing Knowledge for Policy Action

Key Messages

  • As compared to before the COVID-19 pandemic, 23.3% of respondents reported drinking more alcohol compared to before the pandemic (4.8% drank much more and 18.5% drank slightly more), 11.8% reported drinking less alcohol (6.1% drank much less and 5.7% drank slightly less), and 65% reported no change in alcohol use.
  • Analyses indicated that changes in alcohol use were associated with age, household income, a person’s living situation, anxiety, and feeling lonely or depressed.
  • The observed shifting of alcohol consumption may have impacts on health which could be offset by implementing alcohol policies.

Lay Summary

  • During the COVID-19 pandemic, more people have increased their alcohol consumption in Canada than have decreased their alcohol consumption.
  • As identified in previous systematic reviews, those cost-effective interventions which are aimed at reducing alcohol-related harms include increases in price or taxation, decreases in availability, and restrictions on marketing. Additional interventions include brief interventions for people with alcohol use disorders.
  • The effects of the current pandemic and associated social distancing policies on unrecorded alcohol consumption (i.e., alcohol which is not tracked by any level of government) are unknown; however, where increases in methanol poisonings have been observed, managed alcohol programs at homeless shelters may be an effective method of harms reduction.
  • Further analyses and syntheses of the identified academic and grey literature will be conducted, and this lay summary section will be updated accordingly on a monthly basis.


  • Alcohol
  • Heavy Episodic Drinking
  • Policy
  • COVID-19
  • Financial crisis
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Social isolation
  • Systematic review
  • Survey


  • Nominated Principal Applicant: Dr. Kevin D Shield, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
  • Matthew Young, Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction
  • Branka Agic, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
  • Samantha Wells, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
  • Jürgen Rehm, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
  • Shehzad Ali, Western University
  • Adam Sherk, Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research
  • Tim Stockwell, Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research

For more information, please contact: Dr. Kevin D Shield,

Related Syntheses


Full PDF


People Who Use Drugs (PWUD) and Substance Use


To ensure the rapid dissemination of this critical information, information is published in the language in which it was submitted. Please contact us for French or English translations.

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