Alcohol-related deaths in Brazil shoot up during pandemic

Alcohol-related deaths in Brazil shoot up during pandemic
Photo: Nito/Shutterstock

A report by health research organization Vital Strategies shows that deaths related to alcohol consumption have skyrocketed 18.4 percent in Brazil during the pandemic. The report — which uses data from the Health Ministry — does not factor in chronic diseases that could be linked to alcoholism, such as cirrhosis and pancreatitis.

Among the hypotheses for this significant increase in alcohol-related deaths is the fact that Covid restrictions imposed a sizeable toll on the population’s mental health — which led to an increase in the consumption of drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism.

That supposition is corroborated by a May 2021 study by the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) in 33 countries, which found that “quarantine during the pandemic seems to affect drinking behavior and mental health indicators such as anxiety symptoms.” 

As we showed in the July 13 issue of our Brazil Daily newsletter, data on wine consumption is following the same trend. In 2020, Brazilians drank 501 million liters of wine, up from 383 million the previous year. The country has 83 million wine consumers, 46 percent of whom drink at least once a week.

Another possibility is the fact that millions of people stopped treating themselves for multiple illnesses, including heart problems and diabetes — conditions which become life-threatening when associated with heavy drinking.

The increase of alcohol-related deaths was more prevalent among women, according to the Vital Strategies report. The PAHO study also found women to be more affected by anxiety symptoms during the pandemic, which could be explained by the fact that many faced a pile-up of professional and household responsibilities during confinement.