Hello!

Melbourne has just entered stage 4 restrictions and schools are pretty much shut and learning from home is encouraged throughout the state. We have no idea when or whether another state will follow the same path. But what we do know that home learning is putting a lot of pressure on parents and many are turning to drinking as an outlet.

The big idea

We found that parents who are stressed by having to help their children with distance learning during the COVID-19 pandemic drink seven more drinks per month than parents who do not report feeling stressed by distance learning.

These stressed parents are also twice as likely to report binge drinking at least once over the prior month than parents who are not stressed, according to our results.

Binge drinking, which varies by gender, is when women consume at least four, or men have at least five alcoholic beverages (which includes beer, wine, or liquor) within a couple hours of each other.

We learned this from our online survey, which 361 parents with children under 18 years old currently living with them completed in May 2020. Seventy-eight percent of the parents had children who did distance learning in the Autumn months of 2020. Of those, 66% reported that the experience caused them stress because they were not sure how to help.

As is common with such surveys, most of the parents who responded were middle-income or higher. The results of the study have not yet been published.

Why it matters

While many people joke about how booze is getting them through the COVID-19 pandemic, drinking can be harmful. More people die each year from drinking alcohol than from motor vehicle crashes, guns or illegal drugs. Increased drinking is also related to many public health problems, such as violence, crime, poverty and sexually transmitted diseases.

Drinking alcohol is especially dangerous during COVID-19 because alcohol use weakens your immune system. Drinking increases your likelihood of getting COVID-19 and, if you do get it, of having worse outcomes.

People increase their alcohol consumption after stressful times, such as tsunamis and hurricanes. Research has shown that this pattern has held before during disease outbreaks, including SARS in 2003, and following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

COVID-19 is another stressful situation. One study in Poland with over 1,000 participants found that people are currently drinking more wine, beer and liquor than before the pandemic.

Given that distance learning is going to continue for the near future, we believe it is warranted to decrease stressors that lead to parents’ drinking.

What other research is being done

Parents are drinking more during the COVID-19 pandemic than people without children. Our survey is the first one to look at the relationship between alcohol use and the stress caused by distance learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

What still isn’t known

In some cases, increased cases of COVID-19 will require more distance learning. For distance learning to be successful for children and parents, more needs to be known about what makes it stressful.

[Get facts about coronavirus and the latest research. Sign up for The Conversation’s newsletter.]

Another study of ours, currently underway, suggests that one reason that parents are stressed is that they are not getting enough guidance from teachers or schools. This is a particular concern for low-income families whose children, in general, already fare worse in school than more affluent children.

It is important to realise that teachers and other school staff are also experiencing stress and not getting enough guidance on how to do distance learning.

Our results were collected in May 2020. As distance learning becomes the new normal for some, at least for now, it is important to see what, if anything, changes in how well schools provide distance learning and how it affects parents.

Have you found that your drinking patterns have changed since COVID-19 hit? Tell us in the comments below.

Susan Sonnenschein, Professor, Applied Development Psychology, University of Maryland, Baltimore County and Elyse R. Grossman, Policy Fellow, Department of Health, Behavior and Society, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

The Research Brief is a short take about interesting academic work.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

  • So glad I’m not a drinker because I’m sure I would have more than doubled my usual amount.

    Reply

  • I’m not having to deal with home schooling, but am having to deal with many friends who are passing away over this time. 4 in two weeks is pretty hard to cope with at the best of times, but if anything I am drinking less as I am too busy these days.

    Reply

  • This is not a good new habit.

    Reply

  • My children are grown however my daughters and their children do it tough. Thankfully they are not drinkers but I can understand why someone would turn to the drink whilst trying to cope with home schooling and lock down.

    Reply

  • It hasn’t changed at all. I’ve never been a big drinker, even at most stressful times so it’s not my go-to.


    • I agree – there are so many other ways to manage stress without the use of alcohol.

    Reply

  • I can understand how this can be a stressful time for parents. The way we were taught at school is totally different to today’s teachings. I’m just glad my boys are passed this stage. I wish all parents who have to do home schooling all the best.

    Reply

  • I think so many natural and normal habits have changed over the course of Covid and, yes, I can understand why the consumption of alcohol would be higher …. we initially did drink a little more at home because we were not working and because all the pubs and clubs were closed (we used to love socailising), but that curve has reduced again now, even though we are still not frequenting pubs.

    Reply

  • I don’t drink But not surprise.this is really hard and stressful time for parents.

    Reply

  • Glad I’m not living in Melbourne/Victoria as I think the home learning was very stressful. With 2 kids with additional needs it was rather overwhelming to meet the expectations of school !


    • And no I didn’t start drinking more in that time

    Reply

  • No, we are disciplined and have not changed our patterns.

    Reply

  • I work with families who have children with additional needs and the lack of support froms schools during this time has hit those families hard. Schools are all new at this too but something needs to be done

    Reply

  • l don’t drink but l can’t understand why parents are turning to alcohol it’s not very good thing to do especially for your own sake it’s unhealthy and it can end up with domestic violence and your child end’s up blaming themselves for your drinking

    Reply

  • It’s definitely hard on parents with learning right now but health is so important

    Reply

  • I don’t drink but kind of wish I could escape into a bottle.

    Reply

  • Being a teacher myself but not working due to having my kids I feel for all the parents stressed out from home schooling. Wish I could help!

    Reply

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