Social Risk and Smoking Among Women Smokers Early in the COVID-19 Pandemic: The Role of Mental Health.

Publication date: Jun 28, 2023

Background: We examined patterns of smoking in relation to health-related socioeconomic vulnerability (HRSV) among U. S. women early in the pandemic and whether mental health symptoms mediated these relationships. Materials and Methods: Data were obtained from the April 2020 National U. S. Women’s Health COVID-19 Study (N = 3200). Among current smokers, adjusted odds of increased smoking since the start of the pandemic (vs. same or less) by incident and worsening HRSVs were modeled. Structural equation modeling was used to assess anxiety, depression, and traumatic stress symptoms as mediators of the relationship between six HRSVs (food insecurity; housing, utilities, and transportation difficulties; interpersonal violence; financial strain) and increased smoking early in the pandemic. Results: Nearly half (48%) of current smokers reported increased smoking since the pandemic started. Odds of increased smoking were higher among women with incident financial strain (aOR = 2. 0, 95% CI 1. 2-3. 3), incident food insecurity (aOR = 2. 9, 95% CI 1. 7-5. 1), any worsening HRSV (aOR = 2. 2, 95% CI 1. 5-3. 0), and worsening food insecurity (aOR = 1. 9, 95% CI 1. 3-3. 0). Anxiety symptoms were a significant, partial mediator of the relationship between increased smoking and any worsening HRSVs (proportion mediated = 0. 17, p = 0. 001) and worsening food insecurity (0. 19, p = 0. 023), specifically. Depression symptoms were a significant, partial mediator of the relationship between increased smoking and any worsening HRSVs (0. 15, p = 0. 004) and incident financial strain (0. 19, p = 0. 034). Traumatic stress was not a significant mediator of any tested relationship. Conclusions: Anxiety and depression symptoms partially explain the relationship between rising socioeconomic vulnerability and increased smoking among women early in the pandemic. Addressing HRSVs and mental health may help reduce increased smoking during a public health crisis.

Concepts Keywords
April anxiety
Pandemic COVID-19 pandemic
Smoking depression
Socioeconomic mental health
Womens smoking
social risks


Type Source Name
disease MESH COVID-19 Pandemic
disease MESH interpersonal violence

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