Emerging research on psychological adjustment during the COVID-19 outbreak has suggested that young people may be particularly vulnerable to increases in negative affect during the pandemic. However, the association between alcohol use in youth and change in negative affect during this unprecedented time is not clear. Using an online survey, this study obtained scores on negative affect (before and during the COVID-19 pandemic), pandemic-related stress, change in drinking frequency, and traits including resilience, impulsivity and anhedonia, from a sample of drinkers and non-drinkers, up to the age of 21. Young drinkers experienced a greater increase in negative affect during the pandemic compared to non-drinkers, and this differential rise in negative affect was mediated by the pandemic-related stress of social isolation. Young drinkers also experienced a decrease in alcohol use during the pandemic, but this was not associated with a change in negative affect. Interestingly, young drinkers with greater resilience and lower anhedonia reported less increase in negative affect during the COVID-19 pandemic. Taken together, these results show that the greater increase in negative affect that young drinkers experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic, compared to their non-drinking counterparts, was mediated by pandemic-related social isolation. Moreover, greater resilience and lower anhedonia may have served as protective factors for mitigating the social isolation-induced worsening of negative affect in young drinkers during the pandemic. These findings may inform future studies investigating potential indicators of maladaptive affective responses to public health crises in vulnerable adolescent populations.
- Alcohol use