Changes in physical activity, sleep, mental health and social media use during COVID-19 lockdown among adolescent girls: a mixed methods study.

Maria O'Kane, Ian Lahart, Alison M Gallagher, Angela Carlin, Maria Faulkner, Russ Jago, Marie H Murphy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)
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Background: To suppress the transmission of coronavirus, many governments, including that of the island of Ireland, implemented a societal lockdown, which included school closures, limits on social gatherings, and time outdoors. This study aimed to evaluate changes in physical activity (PA), mental health, sleep, and social media use among adolescent girls during lockdown. Methods: 281 female pupils (12–14 y) taking part in the ongoing Walking In Schools study on the island of Ireland self-reported PA, mental health, sleep, and social media use before (September–October 2019) and during lockdown (May–June 2020), via questionnaires. These were supplemented with open-ended structured interviews conducted with 16 girls during lockdown. Results: During the period of lockdown and school closures, pupils tried new forms of PA and undertook PA with family, but there was no significant change in self-reported PA. There was a decline in health-related quality of life and motivation for exercise; however, self-efficacy for walking and happiness with appearance increased. There was no change in sleep quality or social media usage. Conclusions: Despite the many challenges that schools face as they reopen, there is a need to continue to prioritize PA and motivation for exercise to support health and well-being in adolescent girls.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)677-685
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Physical Activity and Health
Issue number6
Early online date11 May 2021
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 30 Jun 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank the participants and teachers involved in the study. The authors gratefully acknowledge the work of Yolande Butcher, who helped with data collection and transcribed the interviews, and also Jordan Kavanagh, Naomi Bell, and Jordan Fleming, who assisted with data collection. The WISH study is funded from INTERREG VA funding of €8.84 m (including 15% contribution from the Department of Health in NI and Republic of Ireland), which had been awarded to the HSC Research & Development Division of the Public Health Agency Northern Ireland and to the Health Research Board in Ireland for the Cross-border Healthcare Intervention Trials in Ireland Network (CHITIN) project. The views and opinions expressed in this manuscript do not necessarily reflect those of the European Commission or the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB). The WISH trial is registered with ISRCTN, protocol number ISRCTN 12847782.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Human Kinetics, Inc.


  • Coronavirus
  • Restrictions
  • Females
  • Exercise
  • Wellbeing
  • Well-being


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