Since the start of the pandemic, alcohol sales steadily grew in America reaching an all-time high just after the ‘stay at home’ orders were issued. A study by Rose Marie Ward et al. has found that Americans wrote more blackout tweets during the pandemic compared to the previous year.
Various states in the USA issued either ‘stay at home’ or ‘shelter in place’ orders starting between 15 March and 7 April 2020. The study found that more alcohol-related blackout tweets were written between 13 March and 24 April in 2020 than 2019.
Researchers used infoveillance methods to monitor changes in frequency of tweets containing the term(s) ‘blackout’ or ‘black out’ or ‘blacked out’ or ‘blacks out’ or ‘blacking out’. 111,135 such tweets were written between 2 January and 24 April 2020, compared to 58,402 during the same period in 2019. This study is the first of its kind to use real time data from Twitter to track alcohol-induced blackouts during the COVID-19 ‘stay at home’ and ‘shelter in place’ orders.
The findings suggest that high-risk drinking persisted during the pandemic despite the habit posing novel risks – help may not always be around during pandemic induced isolation and alcohol use increases susceptibility to COVID-19.
According to the authors, the findings also point to the possibility that increased alcohol consumption could have lasting effects beyond the pandemic, similar to alcohol abuse/dependence symptoms seen in the affected population 3 years after the SARS outbreak in China.