The year 2020 was marked by the COVID-19 pandemic. Policy responses to COVID-19 affected social and economic life and the availability of alcohol. Previous research has shown an overall small decrease in alcohol use in Denmark in the first months of the pandemic. The present paper focused on identifying which subgroups of individuals had decreased or increased their consumption.
Data were collected between May and July 2020 ( n = 2,566 respondents, convenience sample). Weights were applied to reflect the actual Danish general population. Variables included the pre-pandemic alcohol consumption, change in alcohol consumption in the past month, socio-demographics, and reported economic consequences. Responses to a single item assessing changes in alcohol consumption in the past month were classified as no change, increase, or decrease in consumption. Regression models investigated how changes in consumption were linked to pre-pandemic drinking levels, socio-demographics (gender, age groups, education), and reported economic consequences.
While 39% of participants reported decreased consumption levels and 34% had stable levels, 27% increased consumption. Characteristics associated with changes in consumption were associated with both increases and decreases in consumption: younger people, those with higher consumption levels before the pandemic, and those with lower education more often both reported increases as well as decreases in consumption.
We confirmed that more people decreased rather than increased their alcohol consumption in the first few months of the pandemic in Denmark. Characteristics associated with changes in consumption such as younger age, higher consumption levels, and lower education demonstrated a polarization of drinking since these were associated with both increases and decreases in consumption. Public health authorities should monitor alcohol use and other health behaviours for increased risks during the pandemic.