As researchers continue to sort through COVID-19 health data, a team at Rutgers University has found a link between binge drinking by women in their 20s and higher rates of COVID-19 infection.
The study[i], published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence, found that women aged 25-28 who reported binge drinking (drinking four or more drinks per instance) had the highest levels of self-reported COVID-19 infections.
The study looked at seven subgroups of young women, including women using cannabis, women who abstained from substance use, cigarette smokers, and others.
According to Tammy Chung, corresponding author, and professor of psychiatry, and Director of the Center for Population Behavioral Health at the Rutgers Institute for Health, Health Care Policy, and Aging Research, the study focused on young women because their rates of substance abuse are climbing and because they often suffer disproportionately during times of economic uncertainty.
Among its many adverse effects, alcohol disrupts the function of the upper airways, impairs the function of immune cells, and weakens the barrier function of the cells of the lower airways.[ii]
Chung believes intoxication may also have led to less protective behaviors by the young women studied.
The research team hopes their findings will lead to better public health interventions in the future.
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[i] Tammy Chung et al, Person-centered patterns of substance use during the COVID-19 pandemic and their associations with COVID-related impacts on health and personal finances in young Black and White women, Drug and Alcohol Dependence (2022).
[ii] Sarkar, D., Alcohol and the Immune System, Alcohol Res. 2015; 37(2): 153–155.