Background Unrecorded alcohol consumption in Russia is a significant public health problem and is associated with increased morbidity and mortality from various causes of death. The substantial share of the Russian population are active online social media users and can be reached by screening and brief interventions, aimed at preventing alcohol-related problems, through social media. The purpose of this analysis was to assess changes in unrecorded alcohol consumption and factors associated with the increase in unrecorded alcohol use among online social media users during the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic in Russia.
Methods Between June and September 2020, 1518 users of popular in Russia online social networking services participated in online survey investigating changes in alcohol, tobacco, and substance use during the COVID-19 pandemic. Questions assessing unrecorded alcohol use were adopted from the WHO STEPS-survey instrument and investigated changes in consumption of homemade, falsified, counterfeited, surrogate alcohol, and alcohol brought from abroad during the first months of COVID-19 pandemic. Binary logistic regression was used to identify factors associated with increase in consumption of unrecorded alcohol. The analysis was adjusted for age, sex, change in income, restrictions in everyday personal life due to spread of COVID-19, typical (pre-pandemic) one-time volume of alcohol use and typical (pre-pandemic) frequency of heavy episodic drinking (6 or more portions of alcohol per occasion).
Results 42.2% of the surveyed population consumed unrecorded alcohol in the past year. During the first months of COVID-19 pandemic, 22.5%, 25.9% and 51.6% of all users of unrecorded alcohol increased, decreased and didn’t change their consumption of unrecorded alcohol, respectively. Relative to those who reduced or didn’t change their use of unrecorded alcohol, those who increased consumption of unrecorded alcohol were more likely to: have been residents of rural settlements/small cities (OR = 2.492, 95% CI = 1.246 – 4.985), medium size cities (2.310, 1.314 – 4.062); typically (before pandemic) consumed alcohol more frequently (2–4 times a month: 2.449, 1.131 – 5.302; 2–3 times a week: 2.930, 1.190 – 7.217; and more often: 2.920, 1.128 – 7.555); experienced negative work/financial consequences due to pandemic (2.228, 1.270 – 3.909); and increased frequency of heavy episodic drinking during first months of the COVID-19 pandemic (7.249, 4.194 – 12.530).
Conclusion Online social media users at risk to increase their consumption of unrecorded alcohol during the COVID-19 pandemic can be considered for various alcohol control policy options, including targeted screening and brief interventions, which can be delivered via online social media.
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