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

Michael J Green, Jane Maddock, Giorgio Di Gessa, Bożena Wielgoszewska, Sam Parsons, Gareth J Griffith, Jazz Croft, Anna J Stevenson, Charlotte F Huggins, Charlotte Booth, Jacques Wels, Richard J Silverwood, Praveetha Patalay, Alun D Hughes, Nishi Chaturvedi, Laura D Howe, Emla Fitzsimons, Srinivasa Vittal Katikireddi, George B Ploubidis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

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.

Original languageEnglish
Article number345
Number of pages12
JournalBMC Medicine
Volume20
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 21 Sept 2022

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking/epidemiology
  • COVID-19/epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Pandemics
  • Smoking/adverse effects
  • United Kingdom/epidemiology
  • Vaping/epidemiology

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