Woman Drinking

Drinking (or Not) During the COVID-19 Pandemic

For many of us, COVID-19 has put our lives on hold or dramatically reshaped them. We’re being told to relax and embrace a new normal. Should that include more drinking, less drinking, or quitting altogether?

That all depends on who you are, your health, and your family history.

The Health Benefits of Alcohol

Not surprisingly, many people are drinking, and drinking more, right now. And that’s not entirely a bad thing. Alcohol can provide a temporary escape from worry and stress. Occasional or moderate drinking (according to the CDC, two drinks or fewer a day for men; one drink or fewer a day for women) has been proven to produce feelings of euphoria and happiness while helping to reduce tension – in fact, those who drink in moderation are less likely to suffer from depression, compared to both non-drinkers or heavy drinkers.

Alcohol can also provide other health-boosting benefits. You’ve probably heard that an occasional glass of wine is good for you – and there’s some science to back this up. Red wine, in particular:

  • Provides antioxidants that may help your cells fight off disease to help you live longer
  • Promotes an anti-inflammatory response that can help decrease pain
  • Contains a compound called resveratrol that may reduce cholesterol and prevent blood clots

But before make a shopping trip just to pick up a case of wine or beer, you should figure out if the benefits are worth the potential risks.

Why Drinking Might Not Be for You

Woman and Baby in Front of Computer

For some, an occasional drink is harmless. However, alcohol can pose serious health risks for others. People who should not drink include:

  • Anyone under the age of 21
  • Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Those with diseases of the liver or pancreas
  • Those who have had problems with alcohol or drug addiction in the past, or come from a family with a history of alcoholism or drug addiction
  • Anyone with certain medical conditions or on medications that may have a negative reaction to alcohol. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you are on medication for:
    • Diabetes
    • Heart failure
    • High blood pressure
    • Irregular heart rhythm
    • A history of strokes

Consider Mindful Drinking

Recently, there’s been a trend known as “mindful drinking.” Unlike sobriety programs like Alcoholics Anonymous that focus on not drinking at all, mindful drinking is about making sure you’re drinking the right amount for the right reason -- because it gives you some kind of pleasure and not out of habit or because you can’t otherwise cope. Before you drink, ask yourself these questions:

  • Why am I choosing to have this drink?
  • Do I need to have it right now?
  • Am I enjoying it?
  • How do I feel?

Another part of mindful drinking is setting limits: for example, you might limit yourself to no more than two drinks, or you might only drink two nights per week. This can help you drink in moderation and keep your drinking from becoming a habit.

The Benefits of Quitting Drinking

Woman Sleeping at Night

Even though drinking in moderation has been tied to health benefits, your health and well-being will improve, across the board, if you decide to stop drinking.

Statistically speaking, you’re more likely to live longer, since more than half of all serious trauma injuries and deaths from burns, drownings, and homicides involve alcohol. In addition, you will see positive changes, including:

  • A better night’s sleep
  • Lower blood pressure
  • A healthier liver
  • A stronger immune system
  • Improved memory
  • More money in the bank

The Benefits of Not Drinking at All

If you don’t drink, the best thing you can do is to continue not to drink. Even with the benefits of an occasional glass of wine, studies show that non-drinkers live longer, have decreased risks for diseases including cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and dementia. Nondrinkers also never have to worry about DUIs or hangovers!

There are many different alternatives that let you experience the benefits of drinking. If you’re looking for something tasty to sip during your next online happy hour, you can try a fruity mocktail – drinks that use fruit juices and mixers without the alcohol.

If you’re looking for a way to blow off some stress, try meditation or vigorous exercise. Both can help you lower your blood pressure, too.

If you’re looking to fight depression and loneliness, make time to connect with your friends and family, even if you have to do it virtually.

And you can get the same anti-inflammatory benefits found in red wine from eating some delicious grapes, which also provide dietary fiber and immunity-boosting vitamins A and C.


Woman Drinking Wine on Window

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Drinking (or Not) During the COVID-19 Pandemic