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Do Germans drown their corona concerns in alcohol?
Around every third person in Germany has been drinking more alcohol since the onset of the Corona crisis. What health experts suspected at the beginning of the pandemic is now confirmed by an investigation.
At the beginning of the corona crisis, addiction experts warned of an increase in harmful alcohol consumption. The scenario appears to be true, as the first numbers show. What can be done about it?
Germany in the corona frenzy
A cold beer, a glass of wine: in times of home office, contact restrictions and canceled events, Germans seem to like to treat themselves to alcohol.
A study by the Central Institute for Mental Health (ZI) in Mannheim in cooperation with the Nuremberg Clinic shows that alcohol consumption has increased in around a third of adults since the corona crisis. 35.5 percent of the more than 3,000 participants said in the anonymous online survey that they drank more or much more alcohol than before during the COVID-19 pandemic.
First signs of increasing alcoholism
The survey is not representative, but it does provide initial insights into consumption habits during the corona-related exit restrictions. The Federal Government had recently referred to the study in an answer to a small question from the FDP group. The ZI in Mannheim is a foundation under public law of the State of Baden-Württemberg.
In the meantime, addiction counseling centers and self-help groups report significantly more interested parties: "The frequency of calls and written inquiries, the so-called first aid button, has increased significantly," says Peter K. of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Risk factors: high stress level and low social status
“Risk factors for an increase in consumption were, for example, the change of work status, for example to the home office, a high level of perceived stress and doubts that the crisis is being managed well,” says Anne Koopmann from the ZI in Mannheim. People with a high level of stress and a lower social status were more likely to report drinking more alcohol during the crisis. On the other hand, people in systemically relevant occupations who were able to continue to work tended to drink less or maintain their consumption.
Corona crisis becomes emo crisis
“For many people, the corona crisis is also an emotional crisis: Both health-related and financial worries and fears are very present for many people. Alcohol is a mechanism for experiencing short-term relief from these concerns, ”said Koopmann. This could also explain why consumption was more pronounced among people with a lower social status. "Worries increase here and there are fewer possibilities for compensation."
The inquiries among Alcoholics Anonymous are also explained by the fact that the corona crisis has made existing alcohol problems of many people visible. "People who have previously hidden their drinking behavior - for example on the way to work, at work, in the pub - were forced by Corona to drink at home," he says. The conflicts in the families and partnerships would have been discharged there. Many who call Alcoholics Anonymous have become aware of their problem during the crisis.
Isolation and alcohol - an explosive mixture
At the start of the crisis, the World Health Organization recommended that alcohol consumption be largely reduced during the COVID-19 pandemic. The recommendation states: "It is important to understand that alcohol poses a risk to your health and safety and that you should avoid drinking alcohol during periods of domestic isolation or quarantine." That this message appears to have been received only partially There are also numerous posts from drinking people on social media.
Does quarantine increase the risk of alcohol addiction?
Koopmann emphasizes that drinking more over a longer period of time significantly increases the risk of dependency, but does not necessarily have to lead to it. “This crisis is unique and it is still unclear what the long-term effects will be.” Studies in connection with previous pandemics showed the following: Several years after the pandemic, those subjects who had been in quarantine for longer met a higher number of criteria for an alcohol addiction.
"Now we are in the situation to counteract this," says the doctor. Anyone can observe their drinking behavior closely, document it with the help of a diary, for example, and maybe entrust themselves to a doctor or a counseling center. "If I get used to a certain drinking pattern over several weeks and months, I have to work actively against it to get away from this pattern," explains Koopmann.
Best antidote: openness, honesty and consistency
Peter K. knows how difficult it is. He says the only thing that helps is openness, honesty and consistency. For relatives, this often means enduring conflicts. Politicians also need to take specific measures to sensitize the population to the problems and particularities of this situation, says Koopmann. (vb; source: Magdalena Tröndle, dpa)
Also Read: Alcoholism: Symptoms, Consequences, and Therapy for Alcohol Addiction.
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek
- Central Institute for Mental Health (ZI): Survey: 37 percent drink more alcohol (published: 02.07.2020), zi-mannheim.de
- Georgiadou, Ekaterini; Hillemacher, Thomas; Müller, including: Alcohol and smoking: The COVID 19 pandemic as an ideal breeding ground for addictions; in Deutsches Ärzteblatt, 2020, aerzteblatt.de