Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Objective: Offering advice and support for smoking, obesity, excess alcohol, and physical inactivity is an evidence-based component of primary care. The objective was to quantify the impact of the pandemic on the rate of advice or referral for these four risk factors. Methods: A retrospective cohort study using primary care data from 1847 practices in England and 21,191,389 patients contributing to the Oxford Clinical Informatics Digital Hub. An interrupted time series analysis was undertaken with a single change point (March 2020). Monthly trends were modelled from 1st January 2018 – 30th June 2022 using segmented linear regression. Results: There was an initial step reduction in advice and referrals for smoking, obesity, excess alcohol, and physical inactivity in March 2020. By June 2022, advice on smoking (slope change −0.02 events per hundred patient years/month (EPH/month); 95% confidence interval (CI) -0.17, 0.21), obesity (0.06 EPH/month; 95% CI 0.01, 0.12), alcohol (0.02 EPH/month; 95% CI -0.01, 0.05) and physical inactivity (0.05 EPH/month; 95% CI 0.01, 0.09) had not returned to pre-pandemic levels. Similarly, smoking cessation referral remained lower (0.01 EPH/month; 95% CI -0.01, 0.09), excess alcohol referral returned to similar levels (0.0005 EPH/month; 95% CI 0.0002, 0.0008), while referral for obesity (0.14 EPH/month; 95% CI 0.10, 0.19) and physical inactivity (0.01 EPH/month; 95% CI 0.01, 0.02) increased relative to pre-pandemic rates. Conclusion: Advice and support for smoking, and advice for weight, excess alcohol and physical inactivity have not returned to pre-pandemic levels. Clinicians and policy makers should prioritise preventive care in COVID-19 recovery plans.

Original publication




Journal article


Preventive Medicine

Publication Date