Sept. 20, 2022

COVID-19 impacted older adult drinking habits: survey

Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging showed 1 in 4 reported changes to their alcohol intake during early waves of the pandemic
Jacqueline McMillan
Jacqueline McMillan was the Calgary site lead for the CLSA study. Jacqueline McMillan

A quarter of older Canadians reported a change in their alcohol drinking habits during the first two waves of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a survey conducted by the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CSLA).

More than 50,000 Canadians aged 45 to 85 were asked about their drinking habits in the online survey, says Dr. Jacqueline McMillan, MSc’18, MD, a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Medicine and Community Health Sciences at the Cumming School of Medicine (CSM) and a member of the O’Brien Institute for Public Health.

“Our research found one in four middle-aged or older adults reported a change in their drinking,” she says.

While participants were polled on a wide variety of factors, it was shown that those who were younger, had higher education and income, lived alone, used cannabis, and had positively screened for anxiety or depression, were more likely to have increased their alcohol consumption. 

In those who reported an uptake in drinking, 28 per cent met the criteria for either occasional or regular binge drinking. The required drinking amount to fall into this category was classified as four or more drinks for women, or five or more drinks for men in one sitting. 

“We worry about binge drinking because it is linked to unintentional injuries and chronic conditions, issues (like) heart and liver disease,” says McMillan. “Moderate and high alcohol use are also associated with aggression, violence, impaired driving and domestic abuse.

“Public-health interventions, such as public awareness campaigns, resources for at-risk groups, educational programs for health-care providers, aimed at reducing harm from at-risk alcohol use could be targeted to individuals with one or more of these characteristics,” she says. 

The results of the study have been published in the Canadian Journal for Public Health. To look further into this research, please visit the CSLA dashboard.