1 in 5 (19%) UK residents are concerned about their alcohol consumption levels during the pandemic

Our lives have changed significantly during the course of the pandemic, so Health Hub has asked people around the UK how they are now spending their time, what new habits they have developed and if they intend to make any lifestyle changes after the pandemic. You can view the full piece here.

During the pandemic we’ve had to find ways to adapt to the new ways of living, and have adjusted the ways we spend our time and our routines and habits as a result. But just how have our lives changed and do we intend to keep up with any of our new-found habits after the pandemic when life returns to a more normal state?

How have we been spending our time during the pandemic?

Pre-2020 much of our leisure time may have been spent socialising with friends, or visiting family members. However, over the past 12 months we’ve had to get used to spending much more time in our own homes, and find ways to occupy ourselves as a result. When 2,000 people were asked how their time spent on several activities had changed pre-pandemic to now, social media came out with the highest percentage difference, with people spending around 6% longer on social media per day. 

Reading (5.78% increase) and mental wellness activities, such as meditation and manifestation, (4.83% increase) came in second and third place with increasing amounts of time spent on both of these activities, followed by cooking with a 4.33% increase. While cooking an evening meal may have been a rushed affair for many, as they struggled to find time between their commute home and evening plans, spending time in the kitchen has become a new found love for many during the pandemic. 

Although there have been many reports of people working longer hours as a result of our work life being more closely tied into our personal lives, those surveyed have spent 1.78% less time on working additional hours, outside of their usual daily working hours, during the pandemic. With so much time spent inside, we are also focusing less on our personal grooming, with this activity seeing a 2.65% decrease in time spent per week.

The top five habits that have seen an increase in time spent since the pandemic are:

RankCity% increase in time spent
1Checking social media6.03
3Mental wellness activities4.83
5Watching TV3.69

Coping with life in a pandemic – how have our habits changed?

Adapting to life in a pandemic hasn’t been an easy task – with all of the additional worries, stresses and responsibility, it has proved to be quite the challenge. Before the pandemic, meals out or treating ourselves to a takeaway were highlights of the week for many people. Almost 2 in 5 (39%) of those surveyed said that they have eaten more junk food since the pandemic hit, with another 45% planning to improve their diet once the pandemic is over. 

There have been many reports that binge drinking has seen a rise over recent months, with around a quarter (24%) of people saying that alcohol has helped them to cope during the pandemic, with almost 1 in 5 (19%) people concerned about their levels of consumption. In addition, more than 2 in 5 (45%) people who have had COVID-19 said that they have drunk more alcohol than normal during the pandemic, in comparison to just over a quarter (26%) of those who have not had the virus. 

Managing our mental health in the current climate is most certainly challenging, but more than 2 in 5 (44%) people are now focusing more on maintaining their mental well-being than they were before the pandemic. Exercise has been a good way for many people to blow off some steam and take their mind away from the strains of daily life, with 46% finding it has helped their mental health and 38% saying they have exercised more due to the pandemic. Despite this, 4 in 10 (40%) people have struggled to sleep as a result of stress during the pandemic, with those aged 25-34 struggling the most, with more than half (56%) experiencing sleeping difficulties.

Which cities are the healthiest?

When it comes to the cities that have been channelling their energy into healthy habits, London comes out on top with just over 2 in 5 (43%) people adopting a healthier lifestyle. Manchester and Norwich follow closely behind with 37% of residents in each city now favouring healthier habits. Even in Southampton, which is the lowest ranking city for healthy habits, almost a quarter (24%) of people are now following healthier routines.

As a whole, 35% of Brits said that they have adopted a healthier lifestyle since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, with around 29.7 million Brits intending to continue any healthier habits they’ve picked up, even when we can resume our more normal activities such as going to the gym. 

The cities that have seen the most people adopt a healthier lifestyle during the pandemic are:

RankCityPercentage of people (%)

Dr Gareth James, Medical Director at Health Hub comments: 

The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly created challenging circumstances for us to adapt to. Ultimately, we all cope differently, which we can see through some people committing to more regular exercise during the pandemic, while others have increased their alcohol and junk food consumption – there is no right or wrong way to relax and what works for one person, may not work for another. 

However, there are a few good habits that we can use to help us keep as calm as possible and manage our stress levels during the pandemic:  

  • Sleep well – although stress can reduce or disrupt our sleep patterns, aiming for 7.5-8 hours sleep per night can really make a difference
  • Stay active – whether running, walking, or taking part in online classes, any exercise that you enjoy doing can help to improve your mood and boost serotonin and endorphin levels
  • Stay connected – use whatever form of communication you can to keep in touch with those around you, whether that’s phone, text or email. If you can, check in on anyone in your community that may be needing support – a little kindness goes a long way.
  • Focus on positive emotions – it’s important to be informed, but it is ok to limit your intake of news and social media if you’re finding it impacts you. Focus on the little things and try to end your day by noting down any positives from the day, no matter how small.

To find out more about how we have changed our habits during the COVID-19 pandemic, visit Health Hub.

Author: Editorial Team

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