How did COVID affect the drinking habits of college students?

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10)- Many restaurants were in financial dire straights in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic. In New York, non-essential businesses were closed for weeks in the first part of the year, and when they were able to reopen it was in a limited capacity.

New York bars had a curfew and the state allowed them to sell alcohol-to-go, in order to stay afloat. And while 2020 may not have been a good year for restaurants or bars, it may have been good for curbing alcohol abuse and binge drinking among college students, according to the National Institute for Drug Abuse (NIDA).

The percentage of college students that used alcohol or had been drunk in the past 30-days decreased from 62.4% and 35.2% to 56% and 28% respectively. Both of these statistics had been stagnant between 2015-2019. NIDA said this suggests a lack of social events kept college students from drinking as much from March to November 2020 when data was collected.

Historically college students are more likely to binge drink compared to people who are not in college. However, in 2020 binge drinking among college students fell to 24%, the lowest in 40 years and similar to the percentage of non-college students who binge drink.

“It is possible that this significant decline between 2019 and 2020 was partly due to the pandemic in terms of reduced time with friends, with the pandemic serving to accelerate the decline that had already been
occurring,” the report said.

With many colleges moving classes online and shutting down dorms or student housing, it may have also taken away opportunities for students to engage in social activities that included drinking. Regardless, young adults’ attitudes towards drinking have been changing. NIDA said between 50-55% of young adults said their close friends would not approve of binge drinking on the weekend.

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