The Effects of the Lockdown during the COVID-19 Pandemic on Alcohol and Tobacco Consumption Behavior in Germany
Background: Similar to other countries, the government of Germany has implemented various restrictions of social life in March 2020 to slow the spread of COVID-19 pandemic. This results in millions of people being isolated for long periods, which may increase feelings of worry and anxiety. As the consumption of alcohol and tobacco is an often used dysfunctional strategy to cope with such feelings, these restrictions might cause an increase of consumption. Already at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that increased alcohol consumption during the lockdown can increase the prevalence of alcohol use disorders in the future. However, up to now little is known about the changes in alcohol-drinking behavior and tobacco smoking in the general population during the COVID-19 pandemic. Methods: To address this theme, we investigated the changes in alcohol and tobacco consumption in the German population aged between 18 and 80 years via an online survey. Results: In total, 3,245 persons participated in the survey; 35.5% of them reported an increase in drinking during the lockdown (42.9% did not change their drinking behavior, 21.3% drank less, and 0.3% started drinking). The odds of consuming more alcohol during lockdown were associated with middle age, higher subjective stress due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a lower agreement with the importance of the restrictions, and consuming alcohol more than once per week before the lockdown. Also, 45.8% of the participants increased their smoking during the lockdown. The odds of smoking more during lockdown were associated with higher subjective stress due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Conclusion: These findings suggest that it is important to start campaigns to inform the general population about potential long-term effects of increased alcohol and tobacco consumption and to raise the health-care professionals' awareness of this topic.