Young adults: Less drinking ‘but increased depression’ due to pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic helped reduce heavy drinking in young adults but increased rates of depression among women, a new study has found.

Researchers from McMaster University found that while the shutdown of bars and pubs decreased binge drinking, the psychological impact of the virus was apparent due to rising numbers of young adults becoming depressed.

Depression and anxiety increase among young women

The team analysed data from almost 500 people aged from 18 to 25, and observed a reduction in problematic drinking during the first few months of the pandemic, but found there was an increase in rates of depression and anxiety symptoms among young women.

Senior author James MacKillop said that the results showcased the “complexity of the pandemic”, and suggested the rise in mental health issues within the group could be down to restrictions on socialising.

“The study participants were young people, who typically drink in social settings. If you take away bars, restaurants, and group events, like parties, it’s not surprising that binge drinking in this group goes down too,” lead author Meenu Minhas added.


Among the study participants, young women showed a substantial increase in the odds of meeting the threshold for clinical depression, but a similar effect was not found in men.

High levels of stress, irritability and sadness – all related to the pandemic – were felt more strongly by females, and it was suggested that the lack of social support for young people amid the global crisis was to blame.

“Although certain public health measures were important in controlling the spread of the virus, the benefits of social support and interaction, which often act as buffers against the effects of stress, have also been reduced due to the pandemic,” MacKillop noted.