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Action on Salt

Seven in 10 adults are motivated to get healthier in 2021 due to COVID-19 according to PHE survey


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

The survey suggests that due to coronavirus (COVID-19), around 6 million adults aged 40 to 60 plan to: 

  • Eat more healthily (40%)
  • Lose weight (39%)
  • Exercise more (41%)

However, the survey also highlighted some people’s behaviour changing from the pandemic including:  

  • one-third of people reported snacking on unhealthy food and drinks at least once a day (35%) – up from 26% this time last year – this is reflected in recent sales data that showed an increase of around 15% in sales of take home snack foods, including confectionery and biscuits
  • one-third said they were exercising less (30%) 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 (42%) and having money worries (41%)
  • 23% of drinkers (at least 1 unit a week) claimed that their alcohol intake has increased since the second lockdown – this is reflected in a 28% increase in take home alcohol sales compared to the previous year

There is strong evidence to show that people living with obesity significantly increases your chance of being admitted to intensive care with COVID019 compared to those with a healthy body mass index (BMI). 

To support the public in making these changes, Public Health England (PHE) has launched its latest campaign ‘Better Health new year’ 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 NHS 12 week weight loss app. This comes as currently 28% of adults in England are living with obesity and 36% are overweight.

Sheena Bhageerutty, Assistant Nutritionist at Action on Salt & Sugar said:

2020 has been a difficult year for everyone and COVID-19 has highlighted the impact it has on our physical, mental and social well being. Albeit this is a positive campaign which will help motivate and support people to be healthier, the roots of obesity and other health conditions run deeper and cannot focus on a simple message for the individual. The intention to change for an individual does not always mean the action of change and so it is vital to have a whole systems approach to encourage this through changing the food environment. 

Dr Alison Tedstone, Chief Nutritionist at PHE said:

The past year has been immensely challenging and being stuck at home much more this year, understandably, has 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 and 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.

Public Health Minister Jo Churchill, said:

There is no doubt 2020 has been a challenging year for everyone. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted particularly the impact obesity can have on some people’s health and health outcomes. We know many people want to make changes for a healthier lifestyle and we want to help them. So the Better Health campaign provides a range of tools, like Couch to 5K, to support people in their choices. This, together with the government’s world-leading obesity strategy, will help motivate and support everyone to take up healthier routines in 2021.

Dr Dawn Harper, who is supporting the campaign, said:

The impact that COVID-19 has had on our physical health and mental wellbeing is huge. We saw households across England revert to unhealthy eating habits and reducing the amount of exercise they undertook. However, 2020 has also caused us to feel more motivated to make lasting changes in the new year. 2021 is a time to start afresh. Kickstarting a health plan can be daunting but you don’t have to do it alone. Resources like the Better Health website and apps can be a huge help, no matter what changes you are looking to make or what stage you are at.




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