Drinking during social isolation: investigating associations between stress, inhibitory control, boredom, drinking motives, and alcohol use

James M. Clay*, Barbara D. Fontana, Cristina Proserpio, Eduardo J. Fernandez, Ella Pagliarini, Fernando Lopes, José Antonio López-Moreno, Juan J. Canales, Louise Loyant, Ravid Doron, Lorenzo D. Stafford, Matthew O. Parker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Abstract

Background: We aimed to assess whether stress, boredom, drinking motives, and/or inhibitory control were related to alcohol use during a period of social isolation. 

Method: Analyses were carried out on questionnaire data (N = 337) collected during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic (7 April–3 May 2020). We first assessed changes in drinking behavior, stress and boredom. We then regressed drinking behavior on drinking motives, inhibitory control, stress, and boredom. We also investigated interactions between change in stress/boredom and inhibitory control. 

Results: A minority of respondents reported increased alcohol use (units = 23.52%, drinking days = 20.73%, heavy days = 7.06%), alcohol-related problems (9.67%), and stress (36.63%). Meanwhile, most respondents reported increased boredom (67.42%). Similarly, boredom significantly increased (B = 21.22, p <.001), on average, while alcohol-related problems decreased (B = −1.43 p <.001). Regarding drinking motives, decreased alcohol-related problems were associated with social drinking motives (B = −0.09, p =.005). Surprisingly, risk-taking was associated with decreased alcohol-related problems (B = −0.02, p =.008) and neither stress nor boredom independently predicted changes in alcohol use. Finally, several significant interactions suggested that those who were more impulsive and less bored were more likely to report increased alcohol use and vice versa. 

Conclusions: These data provide a nuanced overview of changes in drinking-related behavior during the COVID-19-induced period of social isolation. While most people reduced their drinking, there was evidence of complex interactions between impulsivity and boredom that may be explored in future studies.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAddiction Research and Theory
Early online date23 Aug 2022
DOIs
Publication statusEarly online - 23 Aug 2022

Keywords

  • Alcohol
  • COVID-19
  • drinking motives
  • impulsivity
  • social isolation
  • stress
  • UKRI
  • EPSRC
  • ES/P000673/1

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