Changes in Health-Related Behaviours and Mental Health in a UK Public Sample during the First Set of COVID-19 Public Health Restrictions

Jason J. Wilson, Lee Smith, Anita Yakkundi, Louis Jacob, Suzanne Martin, Igor Grabovac, Daragh T. McDermott, Rubén López-Bueno, Yvonne Barnett, Laurie T. Butler, Felipe B. Schuch, Nicola C. Armstrong, Mark A. Tully

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Public health restrictions, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, have had potentially wide-ranging, unintended effects on health-related behaviours such as diet and physical activity and also affected mental health due to reduced social interactions. This study explored how healthrelated behaviours and mental health were impacted in a sample of the UK public during the first set of COVID-19 public health restrictions. Two online surveys were administered in the UK, one within the first three months of the restrictions (Timepoints 1 (T1—involving pre-pandemic recall) and 2/T2) and another ten weeks later (Timepoint 3/T3). Moderate–vigorous physical activity (MVPA), outdoor time, sitting time, screen time and sexual activity were self-reported. Diet was assessed using the Dietary Instrument for Nutrition Education questionnaire. Mental health was measured using the short-form Warwick–Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale and Becks’ Anxiety and Depression Inventories. Differences between timepoints were explored using the Friedman, Wilcoxon signed-rank, McNemar and McNemar–Bowker tests. Two hundred and ninety-six adults (74% under 65 years old; 65% female) provided data across all timepoints. Between T1 and T2, MVPA, time outdoors and sexual activity decreased while sitting, and screen time increased (p < 0.05). Between T2 and T3, saturated fat intake, MVPA, time outdoors, and mental wellbeing increased while sitting, screen time and anxiety symptoms decreased (p < 0.05). This study found that depending on the level of COVID-19 public health restrictions in place, there appeared to be a varying impact on different health-related behaviours and mental health. As countries emerge from restrictions, it is prudent to direct necessary resources to address these important public health issues.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3959
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - Apr 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding: The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.


  • COVID-19 pandemic
  • health behaviour
  • social distancing
  • longitudinal study


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