Harmful use of alcohol among physicians before and during the first years of the COVID-19 pandemic

Kasparas Sinkevičius1, Ina Rybakova1

1Lithuanian University of Health Sciences, Medical Academy, Faculty of Medicine, Kaunas


Introduction. The WHO estimates that harmful use of alcohol causes about 3 million deaths per year, almost 5.3% of total deaths worldwide. Meanwhile, exposure to stress is one of the factors that drives alcohol consumption. The ongoing global coronavirus pandemic is causing high levels of stress and has a significant negative impact on the public’s mental health. Healthcare professionals fighting on the front lines of the pandemic are no exception, especially given the fact that burnout among healthcare workers has been a constant topic of discussion.

Aim. To analyse the harmful use of alcohol among physicians before and during the first years of the COVID-19 pandemic

            Matherial and methods. The AUDIT questionnaire was used to identify alcohol use disorders. The survey was conducted in Lithuania, online after publicly sharing an invitation to participate in the survey by completing the AUDIT questionnaire and the Sociodemographic Variables Questionnaire. Specialist physicians, family physicians, and second-year and older resident physicians were included in the survey on a voluntary basis.

Results. 11.8% (N = 28) of the surveyed physicians reported not using alcohol. It was found that during the pandemic, there was a statistically significant (p = 0.008) 3.9% increase in the percentage of people who engaged in harmful use of alcohol or who potentially had an alcohol addiction from 6.2% up to 10.1%. Men was more likely than women to engage in harmful use of alcohol or be addicted to alcohol (31.6% and 5.3%, respectively). It was found that physicians who are single was more likely to engage in harmful consumption of alcohol or to potentially have an alcohol addiction compared to non-single physicians (19.1% and 7.5%, respectively).

Conclusions. More than one tenth of physicians who consume alcohol engaged in the harmful use of alcohol or was potentially addicted to alcohol. The percentage of physicians, who engaged in the harm use of alcohol or was potentially addicted to alcohol, increased statistically significantly during the pandemic. Single physicians and male physicians was more likely to have alcohol use disorders.

Keywords: Alcohol use, AUDIT, pandemic, COVID-19.