Alcohol Consumption And Covid-19–related Stress Among Health Care Workers: The Need For Continued Stress-management Interventions

Kaylin J. Beiter, LSU Health Sciences Center - New Orleans
Ross P. Wiedemann, LSU Health Sciences Center - New Orleans
Casey L. Thomas, LSU Health Sciences Center - New Orleans
Erich J. Conrad, LSU Health Sciences Center - New Orleans


Objectives: Although a known association exists between stress and alcohol consumption among health care workers (HCWs), it is not known how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected this association. We assessed pandemic work-related stress and alcohol consumption of HCWs. Methods: We emailed a cross-sectional, anonymous survey in June 2020 to approximately 550 HCWs at an academic hospital in New Orleans, Louisiana. HCWs from all departments were eligible to complete the survey. Questions measured work-related stress and emotional reactions to the pandemic (using the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome [MERS-CoV] Staff Questionnaire), depressive symptoms (using the Patient Health Questionnaire–9 [PHQ-9]), coping habits (using the Brief COPE scale), and pre–COVID-19 (March 2020) and current (June 2020) alcohol consumption. We measured alcohol consumption using the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test–Consumption (AUDIT–C), with scores >3 considered positive. We asked 4 open-ended questions for in-depth analysis. Results: One-hundred two HCWs participated in the survey. The average AUDIT–C scores for current and pre–COVID-19 alcohol consumption were 3.1 and 2.8, respectively. The level of current alcohol consumption was associated with avoidant coping (r = 0.46, P <.001). Relative increases in alcohol consumption from March to June 2020 were positively associated with PHQ-9 score and greater emotional reactions to the pandemic. Availability of mental health services was ranked second to last among desired supports. Qualitative data demonstrated high levels of work-related stress from potential exposure to COVID-19 and job instability, as well as social isolation and negative effects of the pandemic on their work environment. Conclusions: Ongoing prevention-based interventions that emphasize stress management rather than mental or behavioral health conditions are needed.