Is talk cheap? Correspondence between self‐attributions about changes in drinking and longitudinal changes in drinking during the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic
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BackgroundThere are concerns that the COVID-19 pandemic may increase drinking, however most accounts to date are cross-sectional studies of self-attributions about alcohol-related impacts and the accuracy of those perceptions has not been investigated. The current study examined the correspondence between self-attributions of pandemic-related changes in drinking and longitudinally measured changes in drinking and alcohol-related consequences in a sample of emerging adults.
MethodsIn an existing on-going longitudinal study on alcohol misuse (≥1 heavy episodic drinking day/month) in emerging adults, 473 individuals (Mage= 23.8; 41.7% male) received a supplemental assessment from June 17th to July 1st, 2020, during public health restrictions in Ontario, Canada. These intra-pandemic data were matched to the most recent assessment prior to the pandemic (~8-months earlier). Self-attributions about changes in drinking were assessed globally (i.e., increases/decreases/no change) and with higher-resolution questions clarifying the magnitude of changes.
ResultsGlobal self-attributions about changes in drinking substantively paralleled longitudinal changes in weekly drinking days. In the longitudinal data, individuals self-reporting increases exhibited significant increases; individuals self-reporting decreases exhibited significant decreases; and individuals self-reporting no change exhibited non-significant changes. Higher resolution items likewise revealed longitudinal patterns of weekly drinking that were substantively consistent with self-attributions. Heavy drinking days and alcohol-related consequences exhibited similar patterns, but only individuals who self-reported large increases in drinking exhibited increases on these outcomes. Individuals who reported large increases in drinking also exhibited significant increases in depression and post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms.
ConclusionsSelf-attributions about drinking closely corresponded with longitudinal changes in drinking, supporting the validity of self-attributions in population-level surveys, particularly in young adults. Notably, a subgroup was identified that exhibited pronounced increases for all alcohol outcomes and concurrent increases in internalizing psychopathology.
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