Health experts have predicted that the COVID-19 crisis will have a ripple effect on people’s well-being for years to come. People who contract the SARS-Co-V-2 virus and survive may still struggle with long-term health effects, even if they were previously vital and active.
Mental wellness is another challenge associated with pandemic stress. People who lack appropriate coping mechanisms may experience symptoms such as depression, anxiety, insomnia and a decline in their overall quality of life. Increased use of substances like alcohol can also become highly problematic, especially for women.
Women Are Experiencing More Pandemic Stress
The heightened anxiety surrounding COVID-19 has hit women harder than men for several reasons, and one study published in JAMA suggests more women turned to alcohol as a stress relief outlet in 2020. Researchers asked people to self-report about their drinking habits, and women respondents stated they drank alcohol 17% more frequently in 2020 than they did in 2019. They also admitted to 41% more heavy drinking.
Why are women bearing a disproportionate burden of pandemic stress? Consider these reasons.
- Society expects women to do more emotional labor, assuming a nurturer role in their relationships.
- Women are more likely to hold “essential” jobs that could expose them to the novel coronavirus, like nursing and retail.
- Women do more unpaid household work, like child care, cooking and laundry. Widespread school closures have forced more mothers to juggle homeschooling on top of their other daily responsibilities, giving them less time to practice self-care strategies.
- Overall, women experience higher stress and anxiety levels than men, and that’s worsened amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Concerns about keeping themselves and their loved ones healthy, safe and nourished, combined with worries about the economic downturn, are keeping many women up at night.
Women May Be More Susceptible to Addiction
Traditionally, men have exhibited significantly higher rates of substance use and abuse. However, studies suggest the disparity between men and women has narrowed in recent decades, and pandemic stress may accelerate substance abuse problems across genders.
On average, women who often drink excessively could be more vulnerable to developing a substance misuse disorder than men for several reasons. First, women tend to progress more rapidly through the cycle of dependence and addiction than men – a phenomenon researchers have named “telescoping.”
Women who enter a treatment program are also more likely to be in a severe stage of mental and physical illness when they do so, even if they misused alcohol for a shorter period than their male counterparts. That’s because women’s bodies process intoxicants more slowly, meaning the substances linger and can do more damage to organs and tissues.
Next Steps to Take If You’re Worried About Your Substance Use
If you have been using alcohol to deal with pandemic stress, and you think your substance use may have progressed into an addiction, Canyon Crossing is here to help you start your recovery. We offer compassionate long-term treatment in a women’s-only environment that’s supportive of your unique needs. Contact us today to learn more.