Zoe Berg, Photo Editor

In a recent survey, the News analyzed how Yale College students’ drinking habits have been affected by COVID-19.

Administered between Nov. 18 and Nov. 23, the survey targeted Yale students and reflected consumption prior to the pandemic, during lockdowns and during the virtual fall semester. Approximately 100 students reported their drinking frequency, type of alcohol most consumed and alcohol preference during the three time periods, though more students responded to other questions in the survey. Three seniors shared their experiences with the News.

“At school, it’s generally not every week, but if I do [choose to drink] it’s anywhere from one to three times a week,” Keyi Li ’21 said. “This semester, it’s mostly just hanging out with people in their apartments or suites. During a normal year, going out’s definitely a part of it. This year that’s obviously not a possibility.”

With 34 student respondents on Yale’s campus this fall, Li was in the minority as an on-campus student. Out of 124 responses, 46 students reported being off campus in New Haven and 45 students reported being off campus elsewhere.

When asked when the last time they had consumed alcohol was, 58 of 124 respondents reported doing so within the past week. Wes Day ’21, who was on campus this fall semester and also a former editor at the News, said that he drank “once every three weeks to [a] month.” Living in an off-campus residence in New Haven, Charlie Markert ’21 said that he drank “three or four times a week.”

“Prior to COVID it [drinking] was mainly [in] large social gatherings with friends,” Markert said. “And then this semester, [drinking is] usually just with close friends that I live with. But definitely smaller gatherings as well.”

While 42.4 percent of respondents reported hard liquor as their most consumed alcoholic beverage prior to COVID-19, only 17.9 percent did so during the fall semester. While 28.8 percent of respondents chose not to drink on campus in the past, that number rose to 43 percent during lockdowns before dropping to 38.8 percent during the fall semester. There was also an increase in wine consumption among survey respondents from 5.3 percent prior to the pandemic to 20.9 percent this semester.

Even though 5.3 percent of respondents reported wine as their most consumed alcoholic beverage prior to COVID-19, 22 percent identified it as their favorite alcoholic beverage. While 42.4 percent of respondents identified hard liquor as their most consumed alcohol type prior to COVID-19, only 22.7 percent said it was their favorite. Consumption and preference more closely mirrored each other during and after lockdowns.

“I’m a big IPA person,” Li said. “It’s definitely a robust subculture at this point, kind of a meme, but quite good. If I’m just trying to have a couple of drinks, it’ll definitely be a beer, but if I’m going out to get drinks, I’m more likely to get a margarita — big fan of tequila.”

Markert and Day shared Li’s sentiments about beer. Whether grilling, watching sports or playing games with friends, Markert emphasized that it is a good compliment to activities. Day said that he associates beer with when “you’re out with your friends and you are in for more casual social bonding rather than more professional relationships.”

Day and Li told the News that they did not drink during the lockdown. Markert would often drink once a week with his siblings. 

“During quarantine I experimented with making some cocktails, like making mojitos or different things like that,” Markert said. “Those are fun, but they do take some time.” 

When respondents were asked their frequency of alcohol consumption per month, there was a large increase in the number of students who drink more than seven times a month throughout the year from 17.6 percent prior to COVID-19 to 41.4 percent during the fall semester. Despite an increase in those choosing not to drink during lockdown, from 9.7 percent to 24.8 percent, the number has decreased to 18.2 percent in the fall. 

With choosing not to drink being the most popular choice for Yale students, the ranking of alcohol preference this semester came in the following order: wine, carbonated alcoholic drinks, hard liquor and beer.

“I think depending on what you drink, whether it’s beer, hard liquor [or] cocktails, it can be a major factor in setting up the atmosphere of the conversation and group you’re with,” Day said. 

The legal drinking age in Connecticut is 21. 

Data analysis and visualizations by Leon Lufkin. Contact him leon.lufkin@yale.edu.

Zach Morris | zach.morris@yale.edu