A new study shows that American adults, particularly women, are drinking more amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Alcohol consumption has increased by 14% compared with a year ago, including 17% for women, according to a report published in the JAMA Network Open.

The study also showed a 41% increase in heavy drinking for women. Heavy drinking is defined as four or more drinks for women within a couple of hours and five or more for men.

Researchers used data collected using the RAND Corporation American Life Panel, surveying 1,540 adults ages 30 to 59. The authors note the findings are based on self-reports that may have affected the results. It also does not include why people are drinking more.

Americans are drinking more amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Experts warn any relief is temporary

Alcohol sales at the beginning of the pandemic in March rose 54%, according to a Nielsen survey, with health experts explaining that people are turning to alcohol to cope with a life-altering global crisis that has now killed more than 210,000 Americans.

Dr. George F. Koob, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, told USA TODAY that past research has found people are more likely to drink – and drink more – “during times of uncertainty and duress.”

But he warns against turning to the liquor cabinet for comfort. 

“Any increases in alcohol use during the pandemic could be a cause for concern, particularly if the increases stem from an attempt to cope with negative emotions associated with the crisis,” Koob said.

The World Health Organization in April warned that alcohol consumption can put people at increased risk of contracting the coronavirus because alcohol is known to weaken the body’s immune system.

Contributing: Joshua Bote, USA TODAY

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