First lockdown led to increase in unhealthy behaviours including drinking more alcohol and eating less fruit and veg – with women and young people faring worst
- More than 1,000 participants signed up to a daily lifestyle survey in April
- The average person consumed one portion less of fruit and veg per day
- Analysis indicated people drank more alcohol than normal with women consuming on a more regular basis and men tending to binge drink
People drank more alcohol, ate less fruit and vegetables, and took less exercise during the UK’s first lockdown in March 2020, according to research.
The study by the University of East Anglia suggests that young people, women and those who are overweight were most likely to adopt unhealthy behaviours.
More than 1,000 participants signed up to a daily lifestyle survey in April last year and answered questions for three months which provided the data.
People drank more alcohol, ate less fruit and vegetables, and took less exercise during the UK’s first lockdown in March 2020, according to research (stock)
Analysis indicated people drank more alcohol than normal across the board, with women consuming on a more regular basis and men tending to binge drink.
People also had a more lax diet, the study found, with the average person consuming one portion less of fruit and veg per day during the lockdown.
There was a drop of a fifth in the number of days where participants were doing 30 minutes or more moderate to vigorous physical activity, the researchers found.
However, some did succeed in increasing their strength training, despite gyms being shut for long periods of time.
Researchers from the University of Surrey looked at the best techniques to get through the mentally challenging times of lockdown.
The three methods are: nostalgia, gratitude and ‘best possible self’ where the focus is on the future.
Researchers worked with 216 participants who were each assigned to one of the groups or a control.
Researchers found that those who participated in the best possible self and gratitude interventions reported higher levels of social connectedness than those who practiced nostalgia.
Those in the best possible self group were also found to experience significantly more positive emotion than those in the nostalgia group.
Dr Felix Naughton, of the UEA School of Health Sciences, said: ‘We found that participants were doing significantly less exercise.
‘Our figures show that, overall, there was a 20 per cent reduction in days where participants were doing 30 minutes or more moderate to vigorous physical activity.
‘But interestingly people did report that they were doing a bit more strength training – with a 15 per cent increase in strength training per week.
‘We found that those groups most at risk of Covid-19 were undertaking the least activity.
‘We know that exercise helps improve immune function and could contribute to an increase in deconditioning and functional decline, particularly among older people – so the fact that those who are most at risk of being severely affected by Covid-19 were doing the least exercise is a worry.
‘We recognise that social distancing and shielding can make exercise more difficult, so finding ways around this is important.’
The study found that there was no alteration to patterns in smoking, vaping or drug use.
On the issue of people drinking more alcohol, Dr Naughton said: ‘We found that being a key worker, older and male was associated with a greater number of drinks consumed on a typical day’s drinking, and consuming alcohol on a greater number of days was associated with being older and female.’
Professor Caitlin Notley, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said: ‘Our findings indicate that, on average, people’s health behaviours worsened in the early stages of the UK’s Covid-19 pandemic measures.
‘It’s not surprising that restrictions on movement outside the house and difficulty getting groceries in the early days of lockdown may have led to a less healthy lifestyle for many.
‘It is critical now that we reflect on these changes so that we can advise people of how best to protect their health for any future lockdowns.’
The study is published in the British Journal of Health Psychology.
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