Alcohol use among young Australian adults in May-June 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic: a prospective cohort study

Philip J Clare, Alexandra Aiken, Wing See Yuen, Emily Upton, Kypros Kypri, Louisa Degenhardt, Raimondo Bruno, Jim McCambridge, Nyanda McBride, Delyse Hutchinson, Tim Slade, Richard Mattick, Amy Peacock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


AIMS: To estimate change in young people's alcohol consumption during COVID-19 restrictions in Australia in early-mid 2020, and test whether those changes were consistent by gender and level of consumption prior to the pandemic.

DESIGN: Prospective longitudinal cohort.

SETTING: Secondary schools in New South Wales, Tasmania and Western Australia.

PARTICIPANTS: Subsample of a cohort (n = 443) recruited in the first year of secondary school in 2010-11. Analysis data included three waves collected in September 2017-July 2018, September 2018-May 2019 and August 2019-January 2020), and in May-June 2020.

MEASUREMENTS: The primary predictors were time, gender and level of consumption prior to the pandemic. Outcome variables, analysed by mixed-effects models, included frequency and typical quantity of alcohol consumption, binge drinking, peak consumption, alcohol-related harm and drinking contexts.

FINDINGS: Overall consumption (frequency × quantity) during the restrictions declined by 17% [incidence rate ratio (IRR) = 0.83; 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.73, 0.95] compared to February 2020, and there was a 35% decline in the rate of alcohol-related harms in the same period (IRR = 0.66; 95% CI = 0.54, 0.79). Changes in alcohol consumption were largely consistent by gender.

CONCLUSIONS: From a survey of secondary school students in Australia, there is evidence for a reduction in overall consumption and related harms during the COVID-19 restrictions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3398-3407
Number of pages10
Issue number12
Early online date24 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

© 2021 Society for the Study of Addiction. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details


  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking/epidemiology
  • Australia/epidemiology
  • COVID-19
  • Cohort Studies
  • Humans
  • Pandemics
  • Prospective Studies
  • SARS-CoV-2

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