Increased consumption despite fewer occasions - A longitudinal analysis of COVID-19 lockdown effects on soft drink consumption in England
We examined the impact of a COVID-19 lockdown in England on the frequency of consumption occasions and amount of soft drinks consumed. Beverage consumption is strongly associated with specific, often social, consumption situations (e.g., going out). We reasoned that lockdown would affect consumption behaviour because it removed typical soft drink consumption situations. Specifically, we hypothesised that soft drink consumption occasions and amount would be reduced during lockdown compared to before and after lockdown, especially in typical soft drink consumption situations. In two surveys (Dec. 2020 and May 2021) among the same participants (N = 211, N = 160; consuming soft drinks at least once/week), we assessed the frequency of soft drink and water consumption occasions before, during, and after the Nov./Dec. 2020 lockdown, across typical soft drink and water drinking situations. This presents a detailed picture of the situations in which participants drink soft drinks and water, and how this was affected by a lockdown. We also assessed the daily amount of soft drinks and water consumed in each period, and perceived habitualness of drinking soft drinks and water. As predicted, participants reported fewer occasions of drinking soft drinks during lockdown compared to before and after, especially in typical soft drink consumption situations. Unexpectedly, however, the daily amount of soft drinks consumed increased during lockdown, compared to before and after, especially among participants with stronger perceived habitualness of soft drink consumption. Exploratory analyses suggest that during lockdown, participants increased their soft drink consumption at home. Water consumption, on the other hand, was not systematically affected by the lockdown. These findings suggest that even if some typical consumption situations disappear, consumption may be hard to disrupt if the behaviour is rewarding.