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Pandemic prompts desire for healthier living, survey shows

12:00am | & Health

An England-wide survey of more than 5,000 adults has found that 80% of people aged over 18 have made the decision to change their lifestyle in 2021.

The Public Health England survey showed eight in 10 adults aged over 18 have decided to modify their lifestyle in 2021, with seven in 10 saying they’re motivated to make healthier lifestyle changes due to coronavirus. Compared to last year, almost half the population (43%) feel more motivated to make changes to their life in January. Around 6 million adults aged 40 to 60 plan to:

  • eat more healthily (40%)
  • lose weight (39%)
  • exercise more (41%)

Evidence shows that being obese significantly increases your chance of being admitted to intensive care with Covid-19. In addition, 43% of regular smokers plan to make a quit attempt in 2021 and 45% of those who increased their alcohol intake during the second lockdown intend to reduce it this year.

To support the public in making these changes, Public Health England (PHE) has launched its latest ‘Better Health’ new year campaign to encourage the nation to work towards a healthier lifestyle – whether it’s losing weight, getting more active, looking after mental wellbeing, or quitting smoking.

The campaign offers support through a variety of tools and apps, including the updated NHS 12 Week Weight Loss app. The survey revealed that 2020 and the impact of the pandemic saw people’s behaviours change, including:

  • 35% of people reported snacking on unhealthy food and drinks at least once a day – up from 26% this time last year
  • 30% said they were exercising less in the latter half of the year
  • 29% of smokers agreed they smoked more since the second national lockdown, attributing the change to being worried about their physical and mental health and having money worries
  • 23% of drinkers (who drink at least one unit a week) claimed their alcohol intake has increased since the second lockdown – in a 28% increase in take home alcohol sales compared to the previous year

Dr Alison Tedstone, Chief Nutritionist at PHE, said: “The past year has been immensely challenging and being stuck at home much more has, understandably, seen some unhealthy habits creeping up on us all. But our survey shows the vast majority of us want to do something positive this year to improve our health.

“Now is a good time for a reset, whether it be eating more healthily, being a healthier weight, getting more active, stopping smoking or doing more to look after our mental health. All these are changes that will help us feel better about ourselves – just search ‘NHS Better Health’ for our free tools and advice.”

The Better Health campaign provides a wide range of free NHS tools and advice to support healthier habits, including suggestions on how to increase physical activity, make healthier food choices, lose weight, improve mental health and quit smoking.  It targets all adults over 18, with a particular focus on those aged 40 to 60.

Search ‘NHS Better Health’ or visit for free tools and support to help you make healthy changes.

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