Alcohol, Memes, and COVID-19

In light of the current global pandemic, you may have noticed the increased sharing of alcohol-related memes on your social media. Earlier this year, we talked about #winemom culture and how normalized alcohol use can be an important tool for how women create their identities as mothers and women.

Right now, these similarly toned joke posts on social media about increased alcohol consumption show how difficult it can be to cope during a period of social isolation, stress, and uncertainty. Recent global data have suggested that alcohol sales for beer, wine, and spirits has risen by a staggering 291 percent, generating research interest in investigating the effects of social isolation on alcohol use.

The Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction recently released data suggesting that approximately 18% of Canadians have increased their alcohol use while staying home because of coronavirus. Common reasons for the increase in alcohol consumption include a lack of a regular schedule, boredom, stress, and loneliness.

One way people seem to be coping with these challenges is through humor on social media – including Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok.

Media, such as social media, plays a large role in the way that alcohol use is normalized. Culturally, alcohol is part of how we relax, how we celebrate, how we reward ourselves, and how we manage anxiety in difficult situations. 

Although it is difficult to know if women are, in fact, drinking more right now, we do know that alcohol sales have risen in Canada, and that women of childbearing age are drinking more in general. These increased rates of alcohol consumption are related to many factors, including targeted alcohol advertising to women (often referred to as the “pinking” of the alcohol industry) and women’s embracing of traditionally masculine styles of drinking. There is also the idea that women drink to reduce their stress (e.g., a glass of wine at the end of the day).

These issues are of particular interest right now, as there is a concern that hours of isolation at home could lead to much higher levels of alcohol consumption, even among individuals who typically drink at more moderate levels. It is therefore important to be mindful of how much we are drinking and what the reason or purpose for the drinking is.

While there has been lots of discussion about the potential risks of alcohol use during this pandemic, less attention has been paid to alcohol consumption in relation to pregnancy or Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). Whether fact or fiction, there has been lots of speculation (and joking) that we will see a ‘baby boom’ as a result of COVID-19. Coupled with the concern of the potential increase of alcohol exposed pregnancies, it is worth reminding everyone that there is no safe amount of alcohol and no safe time to consume alcohol when you are pregnant or may be pregnant.

While humor may be a way that we collectively try to avoid our feelings of stress and anxiety, it is important to practice other strategies for mental wellness to help support ourselves and one another. Some strategies that may help include:

  • Keeping routines and keeping busy, practicing mindfulness, seeking support, staying active, and getting proper rest and sleep
  • Social interaction – think of ways you can stay connected to others, whether that be by videoconferencing, phone calls, texting, and so on
  • Seeking credible information 

It is also important to remember that some people may not be able to reduce their drinking, and that their alcohol use has potentially increased because of added stress. Their personal situations may be exacerbated by economic uncertainty, violence in the home, isolation, and so on. Therefore, we must not only find opportunities for healthy coping mechanisms for everyone, but we should also look for opportunities to support those who may not be able to limit their alcohol consumption right now.

At CanFASD, we encourage you to consider making your next drink a mocktail if you feel like reaching for that cocktail, beer, or glass of wine!

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