KENT, Ohio (WKBN) – There is speculation that alcohol consumption has gone up during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now there’s research that proves the theory is true.

Researchers at Kent State set out to understand whether college students have been drinking more since March.

We talked to a professor about their research and how the COVID-19 pandemic may have a lasting impact on alcohol use.

Professors Bill Lechner and Deric Kenne hypothesized that college students would drink more than they did before the pandemic due to stress.

The two researchers have surveyed students multiple times since March to understand how their habits have changed.

“We essentially found what we thought we would find, that there was, in fact, an increase in alcohol use from before the pandemic, specifically before the university shut down as compared to afterwards,” Lechner said. “And that people who are higher in anxiety and depression saw the steepest increases in that change in alcohol use over time.”

Researchers said that alcohol consumption has remained at a high level throughout the year.

While the research was specifically about college students, Lechner said researchers across the country are seeing this increase in alcohol consumption in the general population as well.

Lechner said he’s seen an increase in risky behaviors that lead to alcohol use disorder. Before the pandemic, he said that number was about 8% of the population and it’s now at 12%.

Without allocation of resources, Lechner worries this increased alcohol consumption would last past the pandemic.

College students are enjoying their winter break right now, but will soon return to classes for the spring semester.

Lechner said the solution lies with universities helping students through this.

“Certainly, a lot of the problems appear to be stemming from psychological distress and/or employment-related distress. Those two are entangled a bit. So we already have effective treatments for those specific types of problems, that type of distress leading to increased alcohol use. I think it’s going to be more about paying attention to allocation of resources.”

Lechner said universities should make resources available to students and ensure they know those resources are available, and look into trainings and psychological staff members.

He said families are important to provide support, but it can be difficult for them to effectively intervene since this increase is tied to universities.

Students should look into all of the resources and help their school can provide them.