COVID-19: 40% of us exercising less during third lockdown - as happiness levels decline and fear of falling ill rises

·2-min read

UK adults are couch-surfing their way through the third coronavirus lockdown and are less happy than they were during the first, a major study has found.

Four in 10 people told researchers from University College London (UCL) they are exercising less compared with the first time restrictions were imposed - with just 13% doing more to keep fit.

Meanwhile, 19% are spending more time watching TV, streaming films and gaming.

About a third of those polled said they are spending more time working, while people are putting fewer hours into hobbies such as gardening, arts and crafts, DIY and volunteering.

The change in behaviours from the first lockdown is making us less happy, the data shows, with average happiness scores down.

About 45% of people are now worried about catching or becoming seriously ill from COVID-19 - the highest level since the middle of the first lockdown back in April.

The fact the current lockdown is taking place in winter partly explains the drop in rates of exercise, according to Dr Daisy Fancourt, from UCL's Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care.

The report's lead author said: "The reduction in time spent on hobbies and volunteering can partially be explained by the increased time spent working, but also hints that the novelty of increased free time that came with the first lockdown has worn thin among much of the population, with many turning towards television and gaming to fill their time.

"This is further reflected in the lower levels of happiness during the current lockdown, another sign that many people are finding this lockdown much tougher than the first and are now more focused on coping with their current circumstances, rather than attempting to find ways to enjoy them."

More than 70,000 people have been questioned every week for the last 44 weeks for the UCL's COVID-19 Social Study, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, the largest of its type into how UK adults are feeling during lockdown.

Just a quarter of people said their lives feel the same as during the first lockdown.

Cheryl Lloyd, education programme head at the Nuffield Foundation, said: "This week's findings highlight the mental health impact of the current COVID-19 lockdown with people reporting worsening levels of depression and anxiety, along with lower levels of life satisfaction.

"Some groups are more at risk than others including women, those on lower incomes and people from ethnic minority backgrounds.

"With lockdown set to continue for the foreseeable future, it is crucial that efforts are made to ensure people know how to access mental health support and that this support is available to those who need it."