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The effects of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (Furlough) on lifestyle health-related behaviours and mental health symptoms in a sample of UK-based truck drivers
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1  School of Sport Exercise and Health Sciences, Loughborough University
2  National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)


Introduction: Delivery drivers were classified as a key worker group during the 1st UK COVID-19 lockdown. Whilst those delivering essential goods had their permitted driving hours extended, due to a relaxation in UK driving rules, others employed by the hospitality sector were placed on the Government’s job retention scheme (furlough). This study investigated the differences in this situation (furlough vs non-furlough) on lifestyle health-related behaviours and mental health symptoms in a sample of UK-based truck drivers.

Methods: An online survey was administered to drivers (between May and July 2020) participating in the ongoing ‘Structured Health Intervention For Truckers (SHIFT)’ trial. Participants self-reported their furlough status, sleep duration, alcohol intake, frequency of spending time in nature and whether they had engaged in any new forms of physical activity. The Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale measured anxiety and depression symptoms. Between group comparisons were undertaken using Mann-Whitney and Chi-squared tests.

Results: 89 participants (40% response rate from those invited, mean age: 51 years, BMI: 29.8 kg/m2, 100% male) completed the survey. 43 (48%) reported being furloughed. There were no significant differences in anxiety (U=868) and depression (U=960) symptom scores between furloughed and non-furloughed drivers (p >.05). Furloughed drivers reported a longer sleep duration (mean±SD: 7.5±1.3 vs 6.3±0.8 hours/night, U=473, p <.001), an increased frequency of spending time in nature (2.5±1.1 vs 1.6±1.4 times/week, U=646, p <.05) and were more likely to engage in a new form of physical activity compared to non-furloughed drivers (18% vs 7%, X2=6.3, p <.005). No differences in alcohol intake were observed between groups (p >.05).

Discussion: This study shows that a higher proportion of positive lifestyle behavioural choices were made in furloughed drivers during the lockdown, which if sustained, could lead to health improvements in this traditionally at-risk occupational group.

Keywords: COVID-19; Furloughs; Government lockdown; Health-related behaviour; Physical activity; Truck drivers