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Americans are buying more alcohol since the novel coronavirus reached the US, according to new Neilsen data.

Neilsen, a US data-sharing firm, analyzed data from liquor and grocer stores on alcohol sales from March 7 to March 14, 2020 and compared them to the sales in the same week in 2019. 

Boxed wine sales in particular have skyrocketed, with sales from March 7 to March 14 up 53% higher compared to the same week in 2019.

Drinkers have indulged in other blends, too: Wine sales are up 27.6%, spirits up 26.4%, sales of beer and other malt are 14% higher, and online sales of alcohol are 42% higher overall compared to last March. 

But it’s boxed wine — which can pack around three liters in one portable container — that Americans have been reaching for at a time when public health experts are recommending fewer trips to public spaces, such as grocery and liquor stores. 

According to David H. Jernigan, a professor of policy and management who wrote about these figures for The Conversation, the increase in sales may well be linked to elevated rates of stress during the pandemic.

increase in US alcohol sales during COVID 19 pandemic chart

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More people might be drinking to cope with stress, but binge-drinking could weaken your immune system 

Alcohol consumption during stressful periods of time is by no means a new phenomenon — especially during and after traumatic incidents. 

People with more direct exposure to the 9/11 terror attacks reportedly was associated with increased rated of binge-drinking after a year, according to a study published in the US National Library of Medicine. 

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Previous studies of alcohol consumption during and after the outbreak of SARS in 2003 showed an increased likelihood of alcohol abuse and dependence in Beijing healthcare working who had to tend the droves of patients during the outbreak. 

However, alcohol consumption and binge-drinking in articular may lower stress in the short term, but be detrimental for your immune system in the short term. 

Last week, a WHO official said alcohol is an “unhelpful coping strategy” for dealing with anxiety and stress during the novel coronavirus pandemic. 

Dr. Aiysha Malik, Technical Officer, Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse at WHO Regional Office for Europe, said its best to stick to 14 units — about seven glasses of wine — or less of alcohol a week. But exceeding that could weaken your immune system and make you more susceptible to catching the virus. 

Consuming more alcohol than the recommended amount can change the gut microbiome, which, in turn, can damage immune cells that line the small intestine. 

“By damaging those cells in your intestines, it can make it easier for pathogens to cross into your bloodstream,” Nate Favini, MD, medical lead at Forward, a preventive primary care practice, previously told Insider.

Past research has found that binge-drinking — or consuming more than four or more drinks in two to three hours for women, and five or more drinks in that same time period for men — could also significantly weaken your immune system. 

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