The UK Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and smoking, alcohol consumption and vaping during the COVID-19 pandemic: evidence from eight longitudinal population surveys

Green, M. J. et al. (2022) The UK Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and smoking, alcohol consumption and vaping during the COVID-19 pandemic: evidence from eight longitudinal population surveys. BMC Medicine, 20, 345. (doi: 10.1186/s12916-022-02511-0) (PMID:36127702) (PMCID:PMC9489267)

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Background: Employment disruptions can impact smoking and alcohol consumption. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries implemented furlough schemes to prevent job loss. We examine how furlough was associated with smoking, vaping and alcohol consumption in the UK. Methods: Data from 27,841 participants in eight UK adult longitudinal surveys were analysed. Participants self-reported employment status and current smoking, current vaping and alcohol consumption (>4 days/week or 5+ drinks per typical occasion) both before and during the early stages of the pandemic (April–July 2020). Risk ratios were estimated within each study using modified Poisson regression, adjusting for a range of potential confounders, including pre-pandemic behaviour. Findings were synthesised using random effects meta-analysis. Results: Compared to stable employment and after adjustment for pre-pandemic characteristics, furlough was not associated with smoking (ARR = 1.05; 95% CI: 0.95–1.16; I2: 10%), vaping (ARR = 0.89; 95% CI: 0.74–1.08; I2: 0%) or drinking (ARR = 1.03; 95% CI: 0.94–1.13; I2: 48%). There were similar findings for no longer being employed, and stable unemployment, though this varied by sex: stable unemployment was associated with smoking for women (ARR = 1.35; 95% CI: 1.00–1.82; I2: 47%) but not men (0.84; 95% CI: 0.67–1.05; I2: 0%). No longer being employed was associated with vaping among women (ARR = 2.74; 95% CI: 1.59–4.72; I2: 0%) but not men (ARR = 1.25; 95% CI: 0.83–1.87; I2: 0%). Conclusions: We found no clear evidence of furlough or unemployment having adverse impacts on smoking, vaping or drinking behaviours during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK. Differences in risk compared to those who remained employed were largely explained by pre-pandemic characteristics.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Katikireddi, Professor Vittal and Green, Dr Michael
Authors: Green, M. J., Maddock, J., Di Gessa, G., Wielgoszewska, B., Parsons, S., Griffith, G. J., Croft, J., Stevenson, A. J., Huggins, C. F., Booth, C., Wels, J., Silverwood, R. J., Patalay, P., Hughes, A. D., Chaturvedi, N., Howe, L. D., Fitzsimmons, E., Katikireddi, S., and Ploubidis, G. B.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Health & Wellbeing > MRC/CSO SPHSU
Journal Name:BMC Medicine
Publisher:BioMed Central
ISSN (Online):1741-7015
Published Online:21 September 2022
Copyright Holders:Copyright © The Author(s) 2022
First Published:First published in BMC Medicine 20: 345
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
3048230021Inequalities in healthAlastair LeylandMedical Research Council (MRC)MC_UU_00022/2HW - MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit
172690Understanding the impacts of welfare policy on health: A novel data linkage studySrinivasa KatikireddiOffice of the Chief Scientific Adviser (CSO)SCAF/15/02SHW - Public Health
3048230071Inequalities in healthAlastair LeylandOffice of the Chief Scientific Adviser (CSO)SPHSU17HW - MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit