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An investigation of factors affecting changes in health behaviours during the COVID-19 pandemic in a UK population-based cohort study.

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Sharp, SJ 
Wareham, NJ 


OBJECTIVES: The COVID-19 pandemic has led to changes in behaviours, which may have different health effects in population subgroups. We investigated whether within-individual changes in health behaviours from before to during the pandemic differ by socio-economic deprivation, age or sex. STUDY DESIGN: Prospective cohort study. METHODS: Participants were recruited from the existing UK Fenland cohort study with measurements of health behaviours twice prepandemic (2005 to February 2020) and three times during the pandemic (July 2020 to April 2021). Health behaviours included daily servings of fruit and vegetables, units of alcohol consumed per week, smoking status, sleep duration and total and domain-specific physical activity energy expenditure. Sociodemographic information (English indices of multiple deprivation, education, occupation and ethnicity) and COVID-19 antibody status were also collected. Participants were grouped into three categories based on their English indices of multiple deprivation score: most, middle and least deprived. RESULTS: Participants were included if they had completed at least one measurement during the pandemic and one prepandemic (n = 3212). Fruit and vegetable consumption, total physical activity energy expenditure and smoking prevalence decreased during the pandemic compared with prepandemic, whereas average sleep duration increased and alcohol consumption did not change. Decreases in fruit and vegetable intake and physical activity energy expenditure were most pronounced in the most deprived group compared with the least deprived group and were greater in women than men. CONCLUSIONS: Socio-economic inequalities in health behaviours have worsened during the pandemic. As the country emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, strategies to reduce health inequalities need to be put at the forefront of recovery plans.



Substance Abuse, Prevention, 3.1 Primary prevention interventions to modify behaviours or promote wellbeing, 2.3 Psychological, social and economic factors, 3 Prevention of disease and conditions, and promotion of well-being, 2 Aetiology, 2.4 Surveillance and distribution, Generic health relevance, Cancer, Cardiovascular, 10 Reduced Inequalities

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Public Health

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Elsevier BV
Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (CUH) (146281)
MRC (MC_UU_00006/1)
National Institute for Health Research (IS-BRC-1215-20014)