Psychological distress and alcohol use disorder during the COVID-19 era among middle- and low-income U.S. adults

Jack Tsai, Eric B. Elbogen, Minda Huang, Carol S. North, Robert H. Pietrzak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Purpose: This study examined how exposure to events during the Coronavirus Disease-19 (COVID-19) era is linked to symptoms of major depressive disorder (MDD), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), COVID-19 era-related stress (CS), alcohol use disorder (AUD), and suicidal ideation (SI) in low and middle-income U.S adults. Methods: A national sample of 6,607 adults (4.4% who reported testing positive for COVID-19, 25.3% testing negative, and 70.3% untested) were recruited an online platform andcompleted the Patient Health Questionnaire-2, Generalized Anxiety Disorder-2, PTSD-Checklist for DSM-5, the Alcohol Use Disorder Identification-Consumption scale, and an item assessing SI in May-June 2020. A series of multivariable analyses were conducted. Results: In the total sample, 35.3% screened positive for current AUD, 33.6% for MDD, 33.6% for GAD, 24.6% for SI, and 20.2% for CS. Past 2-week SI (adjusted odds ratios [AORs]= 1.49–12.06), number of close friends (AORs= 1.40–2.72), history of AUD (AORs= 1.15–1.92), history of anxiety disorder (AORs= 1.07–2.63), and younger age (AORs= 0.97–0.98) were significantly associated with screening positive for MDD, GAD, CS, and AUD. COVID-19 status was not independently associated with these conditions, but the combination of testing positive for COVID-19, meeting criteria for AUD, and screening positive for MDD, GAD, or CS predicted a 96% probability for SI. Conclusion: Predisposing factors are stronger predictors of psychological distress than personal COVID-19 infection or exposure. The additive effects of COVID-19 infection, alcohol use, and psychiatric problems in predicting SI suggest screening, monitoring, and treating these conditions in population-based prevention and treatment efforts may be important.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)41-49
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of affective disorders
StatePublished - Jun 1 2021


  • Alcohol use disorder
  • Epidemiology
  • Mental illness
  • Suicide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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