At the start of the pandemic, some may have assumed that virtual drinking sessions would have led to Americans drinking more alcohol at home than they did before at bars. The rationale being that, in addition to cheaper drinks, drinking from the comfort of your own home means not having to wait in long lines, and potentially longer drinking sessions as there are no closing times at home. Despite this, it seems as though our virtual happy hours have actually had a more positive impact on our health and drinking habits than we initially thought.
A recent survey by Alcohol.org, a leading provider of addiction treatment resources and information, of 4,430 adults (aged 21+) found that nearly all (69%) drinkers surveyed in Maryland say they consume less alcohol when virtually hanging out with friends as compared to when they are together in person. This may also be related to less peer pressure – it might be hard to call it an early night when out drinking with friends whereas virtually you can disappear with just the click of a mouse (or blame it on a bad WiFi connection!).
Despite the decrease in alcohol consumption as a result of drinking virtually, it appears Marylanders haven’t completely let go of their former (pre-pandemic) drinking lives, with 1 in 10 (7%) admitting they play drinking games while on video calls. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), binge drinking is defined as consuming 4 or more alcoholic drinks in one sitting for females, and 5 or more drinks in one sitting for males. Although it may sound inconsequential, extending your video call for another hour with another round of drinking games may result in individuals engaging in this sort of excessive consumption.
When questioned why they prefer virtual drinking sessions, more than half (68%) say the main advantage is that it’s safer than going out and mixing with other drinkers. More women felt this way (76%) than men (50%). Seven percent said being able to leave whenever they want is a big advantage over going to a bar, 11% say the main benefit of a virtual get together is that it’s cheaper than going to a bar, and 9% say the best part is not having a set closing time. Finally, 5% of respondents appear to revel in the fact that they no longer have to queue for their drink. Anyone who has ever ordered a ‘Commonwealth’ at a cocktail bar can surely empathize with the subsequent long wait of mixing a drink that contains a grand total of 71 ingredients, including prickly pear from Namibia, okra from Jamaica, and honey from New Zealand.
For the minority of drinkers surveyed who said they consume more virtually than they used to in bars, the average person typically consumes 2.2alcoholic drinks over the duration of a one-hour phone call.