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Changes in alcohol consumption and alcohol-related harm during the COVID-19 pandemic in New Brunswick

Category(s): Health
Status: Active
Principal: Anthony Jehn
Project Number: P0100
Year Approved: 2022

Project Description

Alcohol is the most commonly used, misused and abused substance in Canada.1 The misuse of alcohol is associated with a number of acute and chronic risks to individuals’ health, in addition to increasing the risk of violence, crime, sexual assault and car accidents.2 Psychological and social factors tend to impact individuals’ relationship with alcohol, as poor mental well-being is often associated with binge drinking and hazardous drinking.3 Environmental factors, including the accessibility of alcohol, have also been shown to influence the consumption of alcohol in communities.3 The ready availability of alcohol is prominent among factors associated with higher levels of alcohol consumption and harm.4 This project aims to observe how the COVID-19 pandemic has influenced alcohol consumption in New Brunswick. Social isolation and stress from the pandemic have negatively impacted the mental health of many New Brunswickers which is likely to have impacted the psychological factors associated with alcohol consumption.5 Public health restrictions and closures, in addition to policy changes to the NB Liquor Control Act both related and unrelated to the pandemic6 have changed, for example allowing takeout liquor sales and wine recorking in December 2020, where New Brunswickers are able to access alcohol which is an external factor that could have potentially changed consumption patterns as well. The study will use local alcohol sales data as a proxy for alcohol consumption to determine how these changes have impacted area-level consumption patterns over time and by geographic, demographic and socioeconomic dimensions. This proxy will be used since the only consistently available consumption data comes from periodic Statistics Canada surveys. Comparing these results to pre-pandemic patterns as well as analyzing administrative health data based on geographic and temporal consumption pattern findings can help inform how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected alcohol consumption and alcohol-related harm in New Brunswick. The results from this analysis can lend insight into the impact of accessibility to alcohol on individuals’ behavioral patterns and resulting health outcomes.


  1. Public Health Agency of Canada. The Chief Public Health Officer’s Report on the State of Public Health in Canada: Alcohol Consumption in Canada. Government of Canada (2016).
  2. Ray, J. et al. Alcohol Sales and Risks of Serious Assault. PLoS Medicine (2008).
  3. Juergens, J. Alcoholism Causes and Risk Factors. (2021).
  4. Perera, G., Wood, L., Foster, S., Haggar, F. Access to Alcohol Outlets, Alcohol Consumption and Mental Health. PLoS One (2013).
  5. Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction. COVID-19, Alcohol and Cannabis Use. (2020).
  6. CanLII. Liquor Control Act, RSNB 1973, c L-10. (2021).