“Several studies have now shown that solitary drinking has increased as a result of the pandemic,” likely as a result of the closing of bars and social venues during home measures, Creswell said.
“Studies have also shown that the associations between lonely drinking and alcohol problems are stronger for young women than for young men,” she said. “This is especially concerning given that there has been an increase in solitary drinking among American female adolescents of late.”
“The main reason young people drink alone is to deal with negative emotions, and developing such a relationship with alcohol during the pandemic could put solitary drinkers on a trajectory of increased alcohol consumption, potentially resulting in more alcohol-related problems,” said Creswell. “And again, this may be especially true for young women.”
A 17-year study
Creswell and a team at the University of Michigan analyzed data from the Monitoring the Future study, an ongoing survey of 4,500 teens who were asked about their drinking habits while in high school. Additional data was collected when participants were 22 to 23 years old old and again when they were 35.
Compared with people who drank only socially, the study found that drinking alone as a high school student increased the risk of alcohol use disorder by 35 percent by age 35. Alcohol use disorder, also called alcoholism, is defined as the inability to stop drinking, even if it causes physical or emotional harm to the drinker or others.
The link was especially strong for teenage girls, Creswell said.
“The odds of having symptoms of alcohol addiction at age 35 were 86% higher for adolescent women (high school students) who drank alone. In contrast, the odds of having symptoms of alcohol addiction at age 35 were only 8% higher for adolescent males who drank alcohol.” drunk alone,” she said.
Drinking alone during one’s early twenties increased the risk of alcohol use disorder by 60% compared to social drinkers, but this time there was no difference between men and women. The results held true even after other common risk factors were considered, Creswell said.
“Lonely drinking at a younger age is responsible for a unique risk of future alcohol problems beyond past binge drinking and frequency of alcohol use, which are (both) known risk factors,” she said.
“This suggests that we should not only ask young people how much they drink and how often they drink to identify at-risk youth, but we should also ask whether or not they drink alone,” Creswell said. † “Drinking alone tells us quite a bit about the future risk of developing alcohol problems.”
Higher alcohol consumption in women is of concern because of the known link between alcohol and breast cancer risk in women, experts say.
“There really isn’t a safe level of alcohol consumption when it comes to breast cancer,” Dr. Sarah Wakeman, medical director of the Substance Use Disorders Initiative at Massachusetts General Hospital, told CNN earlier.
If you (or a loved one) seem to be struggling with alcohol, don’t hesitate to get help, experts say. There are many different support groups that can help, such as 12-step programs and individual therapy.