BMC Public Health. 2022 Aug 5;22(1):1495. doi: 10.1186/s12889-022-13888-1.
BACKGROUND: The COVID-19 pandemic led to the UK government enforcing lockdown restrictions to control virus transmission. Such restrictions present opportunities and barriers for physical activity and healthy eating. Emerging research suggests that in the early stages of the pandemic, physical activity levels decreased, consumption of unhealthy foods increased, while levels of mental distress increased. Our aims were to understand patterns of diet, physical activity, and mental health during the first lockdown, how these had changed twelve-months later, and the factors associated with change.
METHODS: An online survey was conducted with UK adults (N = 636; 78% female) during the first national lockdown (May-June 2020). The survey collected information on demographics, physical activity, diet, mental health, and how participants perceived lifestyle behaviours had changed from before the pandemic. Participants who provided contact details were invited to complete a twelve-month follow-up survey (May-June 2021), 160 adults completed the survey at both time-points. Descriptive statistics, T-tests and McNemar Chi Square statistics were used to assess patterns of diet, physical activity, and mental health at baseline and change in behaviours between baseline and follow-up. Linear regression models were conducted to explore prospective associations between demographic and psycho-social variables at baseline with change in healthy eating habit, anxiety, and wellbeing respectively.
RESULTS: Between baseline and follow-up, healthy eating habit strength, and the importance of and confidence in eating healthily reduced. Self-rated health (positively) and confidence in eating healthily (negatively) were associated with change in healthy eating habit. There were no differences between baseline and follow-up for depression or physical activity. Mean anxiety score reduced, and wellbeing increased, from baseline to follow-up. Living with children aged 12-17 (compared to living alone) was associated with an increase in anxiety, while perceiving mental health to have worsened during the first lockdown (compared to staying the same) was associated with reduced anxiety and an increase in mental wellbeing.
CONCLUSIONS: While healthy eating habits worsened in the 12 months since the onset of the pandemic, anxiety and mental wellbeing improved. However, anxiety may have increased for parents of secondary school aged children.