Lockdown saw people in the UK eating less fruit and veg, getting less exercise and drinking more alcohol – according to research from the University of East Anglia.

A new study published today shows how lifestyle behaviours changed in the first month of lockdown back in April 2020 – as the nation adhered to new government restrictions designed to stop the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.

It finds that young people, women and those who are overweight were more likely to adopt unhealthy behaviours. And that some of the people at greatest risk of Covid-19 demonstrated the most unhealthy behaviour changes.

This has important implications and comes as the UK is once more plunged into lockdown to help cope with the surge in cases.

At the start of the UK’s first lockdown, UEA researchers launched a project to track people’s lifestyle behaviours to understand the impact of lockdown on the health of the nation.

More than 1,000 participants signed up to a daily survey – with questions on a range of lifestyle behaviours including physical activity, diet, sleep, smoking, drinking, and drug use.

Participants were followed every day for three months in this, the first study of its kind.

The study is led by Dr Felix Naughton, UEA School of Health Sciences, working together as co-lead with Prof Caitlin Notley, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School.

Prof Notley said: “People around the world had to change their lifestyles very quickly in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We wanted to track people’s health and lifestyle behaviours over the first lockdown period to help answer important questions about the overall impact of social distancing measures on health.

“We have been carefully observing and monitoring reported changes in health behaviours – focusing on things like people’s mental health and wellbeing, whether we are getting enough exercise, whether people are smoking or drinking more alcohol.

“This is important because we know that things like drinking, smoking, poor diet and not doing enough exercise have a big impact on people’s health and are responsible for premature mortality. Health behaviours also affect mental health and the risk of chronic conditions and disease, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and Type II diabetes.

“And people could also be more likely to have a more severe Covid-19 infection if they are engaging less in healthy behaviours.”


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