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Study explores pandemic-related shifts in alcohol sales across 16 US states

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The proportion change for every state is in comparison with the common gross sales throughout the identical months in 2018 and 2019. Purple colours point out a rise in spirits gross sales, whereas blue colours point out a lower in gross sales. The darker the colours, the bigger the modifications. Credit score: Hu et al., 2021, PLOS ONE, CC-BY 4.0 (creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)

An evaluation of knowledge from 16 U.S. states means that the primary few months of the COVID-19 pandemic noticed will increase in wine and spirit gross sales, accompanied by notable modifications within the relationship between alcohol gross sales and folks’s visits to companies that promote alcohol.

College at Buffalo researchers Yingjie Hu, Brian M. Quigley and Dane Taylor current these findings within the open-access journal PLOS ONE on Dec. 15. The staff notes that developments diversified by state.

After U.S. states carried out stay-at-home orders and different restrictions to cut back the unfold of COVID-19 in March 2020, anecdotes urged a rise in alcohol gross sales. Nonetheless, data-driven investigations into whether or not alcohol gross sales and use did certainly improve have produced blended outcomes.

To assist make clear the potential affect of COVID-19 lockdowns and different social distancing measures on the dynamics of alcohol gross sales, Hu and colleagues carried out an evaluation of related knowledge from 16 U.S. states, evaluating the interval from March to June 2020 to the identical interval in 2018 and 2019.

“Anonymized human mobility knowledge and geospatial evaluation assist us perceive how folks’s visiting conduct to alcohol retailers modified through the stay-at-home interval of COVID-19, and the way such conduct change diversified throughout totally different geographic areas,” says Hu, Ph.D., an assistant professor of geography within the UB School of Arts and Sciences.

“Understanding how alcohol buy conduct is modified by occasions corresponding to COVID is necessary as a result of heavy alcohol use is thought to be related to quite a few social issues, particularly inside the dwelling,” says Quigley, Ph.D., analysis assistant professor of medication within the Jacobs Faculty of Medication and Biomedical Sciences at UB and the UB Scientific and Analysis Institute on Addictions.

Utilizing quite a lot of analytical strategies, together with machine-learning strategies, they evaluated month-to-month alcohol gross sales knowledge reported by the U.S. Nationwide Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), in addition to anonymized mobility knowledge from over 45 million sensible cellular gadgets (largely smartphones) indicating folks’s visits to companies the place alcohol is bought. (The NIAAA knowledge focuses on month-to-month gross sales of alcohol for 16 U.S. states. It contains gross sales of spirits, wine and beer, however not all states report knowledge in all of these classes.)

The evaluation discovered that total, gross sales of spirits and wine elevated within the early months of the pandemic—by as a lot as 20-40% in some states in sure months—whereas beer gross sales declined total in comparison with the identical interval throughout latest years. In the meantime, folks’s visits to bars and pubs declined, however visits to liquor shops elevated.

Dynamics diversified considerably throughout states. For instance, whereas beer gross sales decreased in most states between March and June 2020 in contrast with the identical months lately, they elevated in Kansas, Arkansas and Texas. In the meantime, Texas, Kentucky and Virginia confirmed sustained will increase of their gross sales of each spirits and wine, which the authors counsel “might be alarming alerts for problematic alcohol use.”

“If knowledge can present details about geographic areas by which alcohol use will increase throughout sure varieties of occasions corresponding to throughout extreme climate, excessive unemployment, or occasions such because the COVID pandemic, this info might be helpful to assist put together regulation enforcement, medical professionals and substance use dysfunction remedy suppliers to handle alcohol-related points related to such instances,” Quigley says.

Machine-learning assessments within the examine level to a major shift within the relationship between alcohol gross sales knowledge and visits to numerous alcohol retailers. Extra analysis can be essential to know how folks’s behaviors modified, however these findings counsel the chance that some states could have seen a rise in on-line alcohol purchases or panic shopping for of spirits and wine.

The analysis staff notes that the examine has some limitations: For instance, many states weren’t included within the NIAAA dataset, and the human mobility knowledge was not capable of seize alcohol gross sales at locations corresponding to grocery shops, the place gross sales of alcohol are blended with gross sales of different objects. Nonetheless, these outcomes present insights into the potential results of lockdown insurance policies on alcohol use and will inform future public well being insurance policies to handle alcohol-related social points, the researchers say.

From a analysis methodological perspective, Taylor, Ph.D., UB assistant professor of arithmetic, notes, “Interfacing new knowledge sources corresponding to anonymized human mobility knowledge with public well being challenges which can be troublesome or costly to immediately measure reveals new methodological challenges for utilized machine studying analysis.”


Examine exhibits uptick in U.S. alcohol beverage gross sales throughout COVID-19 pandemic


Extra info:
Hu Y, Quigley BM, Taylor D (2021) Human mobility knowledge and machine studying reveal geographic variations in alcohol gross sales and alcohol outlet visits throughout U.S. states throughout COVID-19. PLoS ONE 16(12): e0255757. doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0255757

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Examine explores pandemic-related shifts in alcohol gross sales throughout 16 US states (2021, December 15)
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