[NEW STUDY] Did The Lockdown Encourage Healthier Habits?

Findings from the largest study of diet and lifestyle behaviour during COVID-19 revealed rather surprisingly that despite the sedentary lifestyle the lockdown seemed to promote, people used the opportunity to make positive changes to their diet and lifestyle.

The COVID 19 pandemic has indeed had many adverse effects on people including but not limited to loss of livelihood, mental health breakdown, sudden changes to the normal way of living, and even death.

However, this study has shown that the disruption caused by lockdown restrictions inspired many people, particularly those individuals who had less healthy behaviours before the pandemic, to make improvements to their health.

What prompted this study of diet and lifestyle behaviour during COVID-19?

A team of King’s researchers led by Dr Sarah Berry and Professor Tim Spector, together with data scientists from ZOE carried out this study to understand how the pandemic has affected health behaviours.

Over a million participants from the ZOE COVID Symptom Study in the UK and US were asked to complete a retrospective diet and lifestyle questionnaire before (Feb 2020) and during the pandemic (July/ Sept). Responses from this survey were analysed and revealed findings that were largely contrary to the public perception of the effects of the pandemic.

The study revealed that Individuals who recorded unhealthy pre-pandemic diet and health behaviours were more inclined to improve their overall diet quality and lose weight, whilst those most followed healthy pre-pandemic behaviours exhibited little change in health behaviours.

Fascinating right? That’s not all.

In what ways did the pandemic affect health behaviors according to the study?

By applying a novel health disruption index that included 5 metrics: Diet Quality Score, alcohol frequency, physical activity, snacking frequency (food consumed outside of main meals), and weekday sleep duration, the study showed that two-thirds of participants experienced lifestyle and diet disruption resulting from the pandemic and this varied according to sex, age, and level of deprivation.

Most enlightening of all was that disruption of health behaviours resulting from the pandemic was higher in younger females and people living in more deprived areas. Also, the magnitude of weight loss was greater than the weight gain in more disrupted individuals.

Individual changes to health behaviors also varied greatly in the following ways:

  • 15% of participants increased their weekday sleep while 9% decreased.
  • 32.5% of participants increased daily fruit and vegetable intake (from 3.5 to 5.6 portions per day) compared to 22.7% of participants who decreased (from 5.6 to 3.8 portions per day).
  • 22% of participants stated that they snacked less, while 18% increased their snacking.
  • 32% of participants lost an average of 4.0 kg, while 34% of participants gained an average of 3.5kg.
  • In frequency of alcohol consumption,18% of participants reported an increase compared to 11% who decreased. However, in the amount consumed at each event, there was a decrease (14% decreasing vs 11% increasing units) which suggests that total alcohol consumption may have been unchanged.
  • 27% of participants reported an increase in exercise, while 25% were less active.
  • 32% of participants lost an average of 4.0 kg, compared to 34% of participants who gained an average of 3.5kg.

The research also brings to light issues around food security. It showed that four times as many participants (5.8%) experienced decreased access to food, compared to participants (1.4%) who recorded that they had improved food access.

Key takeaways

It is evident the COVID-19 pandemic did not only have negative impacts on health behaviours. This large population-based study has revealed that the ensuing disruption due to the pandemic affected individuals very differently and it will be erroneous to adopt a general approach towards resolving issues that may have arisen due to this disruption. A more personalised approach is clearly needed while trying to influence positive health behaviour changes.

What does this mean for you as a nutrition professional?

You have to cut through the noise and personalise treatment with science. This and so much more is what we will teach you in our Nutritional Therapist Certification. This a full certification that shows you everything you need to know about building a diet that truly serves you and your clients.

  • Discover 160 superfoods that deliver the most nutrients per calorie and the functions of over 100 micronutrients
  • Perform client assessments and detect nutrient deficiency risks
  • Build personalised food plans and monitor symptom improvements
  • Put forward nutritional recommendations for over 40 common health conditions
  • Recognise the impact of food on DNA expression and learn to do a nutrient check-up

Now, you can start this certification without paying immediately with a 7-day Free Trial!

Get 24/7 access to 35 science-based lessons across 13 certifications (including this) and more.

Go here now to start your 7-day Free Trial.

See Also

Continuing Education Bundle

Free Academic Tour

Exclusive Webinar

[CPD Certified Webinar] Child and Family Nutrition Strategies for Your Practice

“How do I know if my child is getting all the right nutrients for proper growth?”

 “Should I worry about feeding my kids the wrong foods for learning and mood control?”

“Our family dinner is a tantrum-loaded warzone… is picky eating solvable at all?”

Speech challenges, learning delays, stunted growth, irrational tantrums, short-fused aggression, hyperactivity, a lack of attention… they can all have a dietary element underneath.

What a little boy or little girl eats can deeply affect their mood, memory, and brain development – with long-lasting consequences carried into adulthood.

So how does diet shape a growing child? And in what ways may you help parents, caretakers, and teachers with the nutrition of little ones?

Completing this CPD-certified training will equip you with vital knowledge underpinning how food can impact your client’s child neurologically, emotionally, and intellectually – alongside insights about adequately running child nutrition programs to best support little boys and girls with their developmental needs.

Here’s what you will discover in this CPD Certified Webinar:

  • Why nutrition and health practitioners should gain a deep insight into child nutrition science when working with parents, caretakers, and teachers
  • Importance of custom-building child nutrition plans considering gender, age, height, weight, and other calculations
  • How adding child nutrition programs to your practice can help clients with the developmental needs of their little ones
  • Advantages of becoming an Advanced Child and Brain Development Nutritional Advisor™ and integrating child nutrition into your work with our Level 5 Certification
  • Personalisation methods and planning tools to use when running your own child nutrition programs to support parents, caretakers, sports clubs, and schools

Remember you have the option of claiming your smart CPD certificate when you complete this webinar!

Register Now

© Copyright

Everything on this site is original content, created and owned by or through The Health Sciences Academy ® or licensed accordingly.

The Health Sciences Academy is the world’s largest, 100% science-based, online educational institution.

✔ helping health professionals build their expertise in specialised areas             ✔ raising industry standards through personalised nutrition and practical science.
© Copyright The Health Sciences Academy. The content, graphs and charts on this page have been exclusively prepared for The Health Sciences Academy and its prospect students, existing students and graduates. None of the content on this page and website may be reproduced, copied or altered without our explicit permission. Criminal and legal penalties for copyright and other infringement apply. All Terms and Conditions apply.


Free Courses



About Us

© 2022 The Health Sciences Academy ® All Rights Reserved.

Client certifications

"My certifications with The Health Sciences Academy have taught me to use and understand many scientific methods and they are invaluable when it comes to implementing what I have learned into my business. I got clearer on the direction of my company. I wouldn’t be where I am now without them!"
Christopher Barker
Founder of The Lifestyle Clinic
"I've started a business based on helping people create the healhiest, most able-to-thrive babies possible with the building blocks being my learnings with The Health Sciences Academy. I'm just so thankful for the education and for the amazing team that helped me! For me it's been life-changing."
Rochelle Serna
Founder of The Non Tox Shop
Send this to a friend