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Less exercise and more TV in Lockdown 3 is leading to decline in mental health

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Approaching half of the UK population (40 per cent) are Exercising less during the current lockdown than during the first in early 2020, while one in five is watching television, streaming films and gaming more.

The figures come from the ongoing UCL COVID-19 Social Study, conducted by University College London (UCL), which also shows that only 13 per cent of people are exercising more now than during previous lockdowns.

People are also engaging less with hobbies than they were in the first lockdown, with more than a third (36 per cent) reporting reduced involvement with arts and crafts and 30 per cent saying they are less engaged with other hobbies, such as gardening and DIY.

There is evidence that the behavioural differences are occurring alongside worsening mental health.

Happiness levels have decreased during the current lockdown, reaching lower levels than during April 2020.

When asked to what extent respondent felt happy during the latest lockdown – on a scale from 0 (not at all) to 10 (completely) – the average was 5.6, which is below the 5.8 measured in April 2020.

The UCL COVID-19 Social Study is the UK’s largest study into how adults are feeling about the lockdown, government advice and overall wellbeing and mental health with over 70,000 participants who have been followed across the last 44 weeks.

It is funded by the Nuffield Foundation with additional support from Wellcome and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

Lead author, Dr Daisy Fancourt (UCL Epidemiology & Health Care) said: “It is not surprising that the current lockdown has seen fewer people exercising than the first, taking place as it does during the winter months, but this is still a cause for concern, as exercise can boost not just physical, but also mental wellbeing.

“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 focussed on coping with their current circumstances, rather than attempting to find ways to enjoy them.”

Earlier this year, figures from Sport England showed that activity levels among children had collapsed during the pandemic, with less than half (44.9 per cent) of children and young people in England meeting the recommended levels for exercise (60 minutes or more a day) during 2020.

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Approaching half of the UK population (40 per cent) are exercising less during the current lockdown than during the first in early 2020, while one in five is watching television, streaming films and gaming more.
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