Alcohol Is No Friend to Social Distancing

By Robert Preidt

HealthDay reporter

TUESDAY, May 11, 2021 (HealthDay News) – Maintaining adequate social distancing from strangers – a key preventive measure against COVID-19 – can be difficult when drinking alcohol, researchers say.

In a new study, researchers placed more than 200 young social drinkers in different social situations in the lab. They drank alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.

In half of the cases, participants drank with a friend, said Catharine Fairbairn, research manager, professor of psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The other half drank with a stranger.

Those who had alcoholic drinks received enough to make them intoxicated.

Friends tended to get closer, whether or not they drank alcohol, but “participants who interacted with a stranger only got closer to that individual if they were intoxicated. The physical distance between them. couples decreased by about 1 centimeter. [nearly half an inch] in three-minute intervals, ”Fairbairn said in a college press release.

Those who drank soft drinks with strangers didn’t get much closer to each other, the researchers noted.

According to study lead author Laura Gurrieri, a psychology researcher at the university, “This study shows that over time, alcohol reduces the physical distance between people who have not been known before. This finding is particularly important in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic because it suggests that alcohol could facilitate transmission of the virus and prevent adherence to social distancing guidelines. ”

The ability of the study participants to get close to each other was somewhat limited as they were seated across from each other at a table, and the study was conducted in a quiet and spacious laboratory and not in a bar, said Fairbairn.

“People would probably get even closer to each other in a crowded bar with loud music compared to our lab environment,” she said. “This should be the subject of another study.”

The report was published on May 10 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

To prevent transmission of COVID-19, it is recommended that you stay 6 feet away from people who do not live with you.

More information

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on social distancing.

SOURCE: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, press release, May 10, 2021

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