Fitness & Health

The Impact Of Covid-19 On UK Mental Health


How has Covid-19 has impacted your mental health and lifestyle?

I know for me, personally, the full lockdown was a struggle mental health-wise, but I also know it was a lot harder for many other people. I’m lucky enough to live in the countryside where there is an abundance of fields and open green spaces, which was good for social distancing and more importantly, mental space.

For others, a healthy lifestyle was much harder to maintain depending on each household’s circumstances and living arrangements. Many people were trapped in high rise flats or gardenless homes away from their family and friends. This unsurprisingly had a direct impact both on the nation’s mental health and lifestyles.

As CEO and Founder of Forth, a business founded with the aim of helping people take control of their own health, I was keen to get to the bottom of the extent of the deterioration of the UK’s mental health levels and find out the true impact. So, we asked people across the UK information about how they felt Covid-19 had affected their mental health in order to shine a light on the problem.

The survey, which was sent to 2,000 participants, asked people about their emotions, lifestyles, and how they felt their behaviours have changed since lockdown.

The results were bleak.

The mental health impact

Across the board, the level of the UK’s mental health issues during lockdown rose substantially. Based on emotions felt at least once a week, the Forth survey found that:

  • National anxiety levels have increased by 60.2%.
  • Stress by 45.7%.
  • Depression by 45.8%.
  • Fear by 107.1%.
  • Worry by 89.2%.
  • Loneliness by 63.9%.

Unsurprisingly, there are many reasons why these mental health issues rose during lockdown, so we dug a little deeper to see whether the significant lifestyle changes the UK experienced throughout lockdown contributed to the rise in poor mental health.

The lifestyle impact

I’ve always felt that living a healthy lifestyle is the key to long term health and ultimately happiness. This is a message I’ve been trying to spread since moving into the health sector over a decade ago and it’s no surprise that lockdown made it difficult for a lot of people to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Part of the Forth survey focused on asking participants a series of questions in regards to lifestyle habits such as sleep, exercise, food consumption, and alcohol consumption. The results show that just under 50% of participants reported getting less sleep during lockdown, with 50% of these people losing over 1.5hrs in total. Additionally, it found that 28.7% of participants consumed more alcohol during the Covid-19 lockdown, and 48.1% consumed more unhealthy snacks. Unsurprisingly, 40% of participants gained weight during lockdown.

Although lockdown had a broadly negative impact on the nation’s general health and wellbeing, there are exceptions. One of the biggest anomalies, by demographic, to the general survey trends was 18-24 year olds. 33.0% of this age group did more exercise during lockdown, and 42.7% got more sleep during lockdown. However, interestingly enough, 62% snacked on more unhealthy foods and 45% ate more takeaways.

I wonder what the long term implications of the lifestyle change among 18-24 year olds will be...

So, how has Covid-19 impacted the UK’s mental health and lifestyles?

The findings from Forth’s survey paint a mostly negative picture of the impact the Covid-19 lockdown has had on the UK’s mental health and lifestyles. This is obvious through significant increases in unhealthy behaviours such as takeaway consumption, unhealthy snack consumption and alcohol consumption. In addition, there has been a marked decrease in sleep quality. The impact? Weight gain and poor mental health.

It would be wrong to say that an unhealthy lifestyle is the only reason for an increase in the UK’s mental health issues, we are of course in the middle of a pandemic. That said, the findings reveal how unhealthy behaviour contributes to a decline in mental health; both feed the other and create a spiral effect that can be hard to overcome.  

The UK, like the rest of the world, has experienced major behavioural changes over the past few months and it’s clear that there has been a knock on effect of unhealthy lifestyle choices that have led to a decline in mental health quality. That said, there is hope. The findings reveal areas and behaviours that need focus and improvement across society, in terms of mental and physical health. Covid-19 has also shone a very bright light on the importance of good health, something that a decade’s worth of NHS awareness campaigns would have found hard to achieve.

Disclaimer: Sarah Bolt is the CEO and Founder of Forth.

Nov 15, 2020
Fitness & Health

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