BMC Public Health. 2022 Jul 28;22(1):1437. doi: 10.1186/s12889-022-13870-x.
BACKGROUND: COVID-19 related lockdowns may have affected engagement in health behaviours among the UK adult population. This prospective observational study assessed socio-demographic patterning in attempts to change and maintain a range of health behaviours and changes between two time points during the pandemic.
METHODS: Adults aged 18 years and over (n = 4,978) were recruited using Dynata (an online market research platform) and the HealthWise Wales platform, supplemented through social media advertising. Online surveys were conducted in August/September 2020 when lockdown restrictions eased in the UK following the first major UK lockdown (survey phase 1) and in February/March 2021 during a further national lockdown (survey phase 2). Measures derived from the Cancer Awareness Measure included self-reported attempts to reduce alcohol consumption, increase fruit/vegetable consumption, increase physical activity, lose weight and reduce/stop smoking. Multivariable logistic regressions were used to assess individual health behaviour change attempts over time, adjusted for age, sex, ethnicity, employment and education.
RESULTS: Around half of participants in survey phase 1 reported trying to increase physical activity (n = 2607, 52.4%), increase fruit/vegetables (n = 2445, 49.1%) and lose weight (n = 2413, 48.5%), with 19.0% (n = 948) trying to reduce alcohol consumption among people who drink. Among the 738 participants who smoked, 51.5% (n = 380) were trying to reduce and 27.4% (n = 202) to stop smoking completely. Most behaviour change attempts were more common among women, younger adults and minority ethnic group participants. Efforts to reduce smoking (aOR: 0.98, 95% CI: 0.82-1.17) and stop smoking (aOR: 0.98, 95% CI: 0.80-1.20) did not differ significantly in phase 2 compared to phase 1. Similarly, changes over time in attempts to improve other health behaviours were not statistically significant: physical activity (aOR: 1.07; 95% CI: 0.99-1.16); weight loss (aOR: 0.95; 95% CI: 0.90-1.00); fruit/vegetable intake (aOR: 0.98, 95% CI: 0.91-1.06) and alcohol use (aOR: 1.32, 95% CI: 0.92-1.91).
CONCLUSION: A substantial proportion of participants reported attempts to change health behaviours in the initial survey phase. However, the lack of change observed over time indicated that overall motivation to engage in healthy behaviours was sustained among the UK adult population, from a period shortly after the first lockdown toward the end of the second prolonged lockdown.