Access & Advertisement: Important Factors in Female Alcohol Consumption


As we know, alcohol is everywhere. We don’t know if it’s possible to go an entire day without seeing an advertisement for alcohol. Whether it’s a prominent ad with a massive billboard of a beautiful lady sipping a frothy new flavor beer, or something as subtle as a close up of wine, our favorite movie star is drinking, alcohol has infiltrated our home life, work-life, and for many, our school life. As we’ve been talking about the increase in women drinking in the U.S and all around the world, it’s important to recognize new platforms alcohol companies are using to promote, such as social media. Although they are specific guidelines alcohol companies must adhere to, those regulations seem very vague, for such an important issue. The self-regulated guidelines for advertising alcohol on social media are mainly focused on not promoting to those under the legal drinking age [3]. In 2014, 67% of Americans aged 12 and older said they use social media [1]. For alcohol companies for marketing on social media, 71.6% of their audience must be over the age of 21 [1].  Please take a look below at some of the common social media platforms about how they protect against advertisements being shown to those under the legal drinking age.

We couldn’t find any regulations about how often you could see alcohol advertisements on social or the time of day these ads are prohibited. This is problematic as we discuss the normalization of heavy drinking. Not only are ads practically unregulated, but they are targeting specific groups. Are clever ads and new group-specific products driving the number of women who are engaged in drinking up? Look at this ad that came across my Instagram story as I was casually strolling.

Are you worried about the calories you consume while drinking? No worries, there are now many products targeting women, promoting few calories, and a refreshing fruity taste. How problematic is this? We need more policies to regulate how often, when, and where products can be promoted. Many of us have been warned that having too much screen time is for us. Now, it’s for new reasons.

You can find more information about the prohibited practices for alcohol advertisement here [2].


               As discussed in our previous blog post, stress drinking of alcohol is on the rise during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially for women. Access to alcohol plays an important role in this. Twenty-four-hour liquor stores and wine box subscriptions have kept the alcohol flowing for women stuck inside their homes. Many restaurants are currently offering “cocktails-to-go” and bottles of wine for sale with curbside pick-up orders. Lawmakers are even supporting this movement with temporary legislature, allowing the sell of to-go alcohol [5].

However, many organizations are calling for restrictions on access to alcohol during this pandemic. For instance, the World Health Organization European Region is arguing for restrictions to be “upheld and even reinforced” during the pandemic, in order to reduce alcohol harm [6]. WHO is fighting rumors circulating about alcohol protecting against the coronavirus. Setting the record straight, the agency has reported that alcohol compromises the immune system and can make one more susceptible to the virus.



Alcohol as a Coping Mechanism: Anxiety in a Pandemic

Authors: Ashley Watson, MPH and Alexandria Patterson, MPH

People all across the world are facing the hardship of COVID-19, a pandemic that many countries were unprepared for and completely shocked by its severity. Stay-at-home order mandates were put into place around mid-March, and our sense of reality was lost. All nonessential businesses and schools were forced to close for an uncertain amount of time, resulting in a spike in unemployment, with over 30 million Americans filing since the start of the outbreak [1]. The decline of the economy is well underway.

Consequently, feelings of fear and anxiety may emerge in adults and children as COVID-19 continues to spread. Many adversities include new or more profound economic hardship, increased family disputes, feelings of isolation, and poor work-life balance. Individuals vary in their response to an outbreak based on their background, things that make one person different from another, and the community in which one resides [5]. The adverse reactions to stress can be more influential in individuals who are at higher risk of COVID-19 due to having a chronic illness, healthcare workers and first responders, and people with mental conditions such as substance abuse [5]. As we are living through unprecedented times, women, men, and children look for new ways to cope.

A commonly used coping strategy is alcohol. We know this because it is a not a new trend. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, twenty percent of people diagnosed with social anxiety disorder experience some type of alcohol abuse or dependence. Generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorders are also often connected to alcohol use, with researchers suggesting that in some instances anxiety symptoms are the result of alcohol withdrawal [3]. According to a study conducted at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, excessive drinking can make an individual more susceptible to anxiety and the experience of trauma, and subsequently, post-traumatic stress disorder [4].

Many women use alcohol to self-medicate when it comes to anxiety. Since alcohol is a depressant, many women consume it in order to reduce anxiety [2]. Initially, alcohol consumption can reduce anxiety. However, alcohol can also increase anxiety shortly after consumption. Furthermore, this increase in anxiety symptoms can persist for more than a day [6].

These problems can be exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Lack of social interaction and extreme boredom can cause anxiety. This is often referred to as going “stir crazy.” Current marketing strategies and social expectations already support and encourage concepts like women drinking wine after a hard day. This has been greatly magnified during the COVID-19 pandemic. An example is the meme below that suggests the consumer should stock up on a shopping cart full of wine as part of their emergency pandemic preparation. This type of marketing is especially harmful to women who are anxious about potentially contracting COVID-19 and/or a myriad of other concerns. The uptick in virtual “happy hours” as a replacement for in-person socialization has also become a form of self-medication. These types of gatherings further convince women that alcohol is quelling their anxiety, when in reality much-needed social interaction is the more probable cause for decreased anxiety symptoms.

Source: Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code (ABAC)


  1. 30 million have sought U.S. unemployment aid since COVID-19 hit. (2020, April 30). Retrieved from
  2. Ankrom, S. (2020, March 23). The Risks of Using Alcohol to Relieve Anxiety. Retrieved May 16, 2020, from
  3. Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Social Anxiety Disorder and Alcohol Abuse. Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA.
  4. Heavy drinking rewires brain, increasing anxiety problem. UNC Health Talk. (2012, September 4).
  5. Mental Health and Coping During COVID-19. (2020, April 30). Retrieved from
  6. Watkins, M. (2019, November 25). Anxiety and Alcohol: How They Are Linked. Retrieved from