When the pandemic began sales of alcoholic beverages spiked in New Jersey.

Now we are starting to see the result of that activity.

Sean Hopkins, the senior vice president of the New Jersey Hospital Association’s Center for Health Analytics, Research and Transformation, said researchers examined data on patients admitted to the hospital with alcohol-related liver disease.

From 2019 and 2021, hospitalizations rose by 21%, with the increase among women rising 28%.

Hopkins said the proportion of patients in New Jersey hospitals with alcoholic-related liver disease jumped from 11.9 per 1,000 in 2019 to 14.7 per 1,000 in 2021.

Young woman deep thinking after she had some drink
DjelicS GettyImages

Women more affected?

He said when it comes to this type of health issue “it is still more common among the male population, but females experienced the greatest growth in alcohol-related liver disease.”

He said the largest increase “from an age group perspective was between the ages of 35 and 44, where there was a 48% increase, and then between the ages of 25 and 34, a 41% increase.”

Hopkins said there was also an uptick in alcohol-related liver disease that lead to death: 357 such deaths in 2019, to 444 deaths in 2021.

Why did people increase their drinking?

He said “the most frequently cited driver was stress. I think we can all say we experienced stress in many forms during the pandemic.”

He said this anxiety was caused by “either a demanding job or the loss of a job, or juggling the emotional needs of children or worrying about aging parents.”

What’s the takeaway?

Hopkins said it’s become clear the pandemic’s reach “on health status runs much deeper than just COVID hospitalizations and deaths.”

He said the study highlights the need for individuals and government agencies “to explore future interventions to mitigate these types of unintended consequences in future pandemics.”

The full report, Alcohol-Related Hospitalizations Jumped Amid COVID is available here.

David Matthau is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at david.matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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