Is talk cheap? Correspondence between self‐attributions about changes in drinking and longitudinal changes in drinking during the 2019 coronavirus pandemic Academic Article uri icon

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  • AbstractBackgroundThere are concerns that the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID‐19) pandemic may increase drinking, but 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 ongoing 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 intrapandemic 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 (DD). In the longitudinal data, individuals’ who self‐reported increases in drinking exhibited significant increases; individuals’ who self‐reported decreases exhibited significant decreases; and individuals who self‐reported no change exhibited nonsignificant changes. Higher resolution items likewise revealed longitudinal patterns of weekly drinking that were substantively consistent with self‐attributions. Heavy DD 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 posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms.ConclusionsSelf‐attributions about drinking closely corresponded to 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‐related outcomes and concurrent increases in internalizing psychopathology.


  • Minhas, Meenu
  • Belisario, Kyla
  • Gonzalez‐Roz, Alba
  • Halladay, Jillian
  • Morris, Vanessa
  • Keough, Matthew
  • Murphy, James
  • MacKillop, James

publication date

  • December 2021