Age, Mental Health & Alcohol Use During COVID-19

age mental health and alcohol use

Older people may feel more anxious about COVID-19 than their younger counterparts.


Two new surveys by Preventive Medicine (Volume 145, April 2021, 106422), “aimed to examine whether age modified the association of anxiety and depressive symptoms with alcohol use during the COVID-19 pandemic”. Almost six-thousand people in the U.S. responded to their online questionnaires.


Age, Mental Health and Alcohol Use

29% of respondents said they had increased alcohol use during COVID-19. And 64% of those with anxiety and depression had a greater incidence of increased alcohol use. But, age was also a mitigating factor.


  • Younger respondents (18 – 39) had the highest report of increased alcohol use regardless of mental health status.


  • Older respondents (40–59 and >60 years) reported increased drinking was much greater when symptoms of anxiety and depression were also present. Why? Older age increases the risk of mortality and morbidity with COVID-19 (CDC COVID-19 Response Team, 2020). In that regard, older people may feel more anxious about COVID-19 than their younger counterparts. Also, research indicates that older adults are most vulnerable to alcohol misuse when lonely or isolated.


Response to Findings

Outreach efforts, treatment, and telehealth programs should focus on those who are most vulnerable to COVID-19. This includes specialized programs for both younger and older adult age groups. Also, proactive contact to those with existing mental health and substance use conditions, who may have their symptoms exacerbated by COVID-19.


These findings warrant age-differentiated public health messaging on the risks of excessive alcohol use and scale-up of substance use services for middle-aged and older adults with symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Preventive Medicine


For the Entire Survey Click Below:

age mental health alcohol use

Increased alcohol use during the COVID-19 pandemic: The effect of mental health and age in a cross-sectional sample of social media users in the U.S.





Sanford Behavioral Health is a residential and outpatient facility located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Sanford offers excellence in evidence-based practice models in a home-like, restorative setting. Our clinicians, supported by our medical team, focus on resolving the underlying issues that often cause substance use, such as trauma, unhealthy relationships, co-occurring disorders and isolation. Programs include both in-person and telehealth: residential, day programs, intensive outpatient, outpatient, medication-assisted treatment (MAT), education and relapse prevention classes, one-on-one and family therapy, and alumni and family support groups. At Sanford, we want to inspire you to find your inner grit, rekindle your interests and engage your passion.