COVID-19 may influence vaping, other substance use in young adults, study finds

About 34 percent of young adults who completed a research survey said they've changed their vaping or substance use patterns in response to the pandemic, according to a Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic report published in Sage Open Medicine

With COVID-19 being a respiratory illness and vaping linked to lung damage, researchers set out to see how the pandemic may affect vaping and other substance use habits via a survey. More than 1,000 adults ages 18 to 25 completed the survey, which was sent to all Mayo Clinic patients who met the age requirement in April, and had visited an outpatient setting for any reason across Midwest locations within the four months before the survey. 

Key findings: 

  • Nearly 70 percent of respondents reported an increase of alcohol consumption.
  • Nearly 28 percent increased vaping use, while 44 percent reported decreases.
  • About 47 percent said they reduced their tobacco use, while 24 percent reported an increase.
  • Out of 140 who reported changes in marijuana use, about 39 percent said they used more, while 36 percent cut back. 

Researchers also compiled self-reported depression and anxiety information, and measured loneliness. A total of 269 respondents self-reported an anxiety disorder and 253 said they've experienced depression. 

"We saw that the more lonely, depressed or anxious these young people felt, the more likely they were to change their usage," Pravesh Sharma, MD, lead study author, said in a news release. "They may be trying to cope with social and emotional strain by adding or replacing one substance with another, especially if their access to other support is limited." 

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