Dealing with the pandemic by drinking and swearing? Boffins say you're not alone

While social media gets a portion of the blame for COVID-19's initial spread


The impact of lockdowns during a global pandemic appears to be making itself known in a variety of ways – subtle and otherwise – including increased drinking and swearing. Or, as we like to call it, "the weekend".

There's no denying that the pandemic has been tough, and the IT industry was far from immune. We've seen numerous events cancelled, supply chain issues and the joys of looking terrible on camera – and those were all in the first three months.

How did we react? Well, we drank. And swore.

At least, that's the conclusion which can be drawn from studies undertaken, beginning with a paper from researchers at Flinders University, who have directly tied the lockdowns in the UK and Australia to an increase in drinking – among middle-aged women, at least.

"We found those that were struggling to get through the COVID-19 lockdowns in both Australia and the UK increased their drinking and those same negative feelings led people to buy more alcohol as well," said Dr. Emma Miller.

"Previous research of ours has also shown women shift their perception from long-term uncertainties, such as the dangers of alcohol, to refocus on the more pressing need to 'get through' the pandemic – deciding that what they perceive as short-term benefits, outweigh the long-term health risks."

A separate poll carried out by the University of Michigan, meanwhile, found the pandemic had increased drinking in both men and women over the age of 50 with between a third and a half of those who admitted to routine drinking 'fessing up to having increased their intake in the first ten months of the pandemic.

"While not every older adult who drank more during the past year may have gone from non-risky to risky drinking, the overall level of drinking, and the potential for interaction with other substances, is very concerning," Dr. Anne Fernandez, a psychologist specialising in alcohol use, said of the responses. "As we all toast the end of the worst part of the pandemic in our country, it's important to address or prevent problematic drinking of all kinds."

The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) may have stumbled upon another way we're dealing with the stress of lockdown: swearing. In a survey which looked at everything from, and we quote verbatim from the presentation deck, "the difference between strong language ('f**k', 'motherf**ker') and very strong language ('c**t')" to the use of bleep-censorship in broadcast media, the organisation discovered that a full third of respondents found themselves using more strong language than they did five years ago.

The study also indicated that six in ten use strong language daily, nearly half of Gen Z respondents use strong language daily compared with one in ten of apparently more mature respondents aged between 55 and 64, and that only 61 per cent bother to rein in their language in the presence of children.

One thing that almost certainly hasn't helped matters is social media, with researchers at York University and the University of British Columbia having reported that social media use is one of four factors related to the spread of COVID-19 in the pandemic's early stages – thanks to its use for organising meet-ups where the virus could happily spread.

"What we found was surprising, that the use of social media to organise off-line action tended to be associated with a higher spread rate of COVID-19," York University Assistant Professor Jude Kong explained. "This highlights the need to consider the dynamic role that social media plays in epidemics."

In short: you're not alone if you're drinking and swearing your way through the pandemic, but maybe take a break from the socials to do so. ®

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