A ‘substantial’ number of people plan to change lifestyle after pandemic ends

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Only one in 10 people plan to return to living exactly as they did before coronavirus (Covid-19) after the pandemic ends, researchers have found.

The ongoing Covid-19 social study by University College London (UCL) found just over half (51%) of people said they were more likely on balance to return to how things were before lockdown.

However, a fifth (22%) of respondents felt they were more likely to change things, which rose to around a quarter for those aged 30-59 (25%) and for those with a diagnosed mental illness (26%).

Launched in the week before lockdown began, the research by UCL is the UK’s largest study into how adults are feeling about lockdown, government advice and overall wellbeing and mental health, with more than 70,000 participants in the last 23 weeks.

One factor that people were most likely to change was increasing their support for local businesses (40%), with around a third of people also saying they would save more money (33%), exercise more (35%) or make more use of online shopping (33%).

A quarter of adults planned to work from home more, which increased to 29% for 18-29 year-olds and 32% for those aged between 30-59.

Researchers found 26% of people across all age groups wanted to spend more time with family outside of their homes or holiday more in the UK.

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Around 16% of people aged over 60 said they would return to living exactly as they had before, more than double (7%) compared to the population below that age.

Just under a fifth (18%) of people aged 18-29 expressed a desire to find a new romantic relationship once the pandemic is over.

Lead author Dr Daisy Fancourt said: “Our study shows that during lockdown many peoples’ priorities have changed, with a substantial number of people expressing a desire to change parts of their life and routine once the pandemic is over.

“This is likely down to the upheaval of lockdown breaking many habits and leading to people reassessing what they feel is important or worthwhile, be that spending time with their family, supporting their community, or saving money, to name some of the more popular responses.”

Groups that were least likely to report lifestyle changes were those who lived alone, those on lower household incomes and those without children.

Cheryl Lloyd, education programme head at the Nuffield Foundation, which is funding the study, said the findings raised important questions about how feasible it is for people on lower incomes to make lifestyle changes, as they were “more likely to be in precarious employment and have less disposable income”.

She added: “To be effective, policies should be targeted, and designed in consultation with at-risk groups, to ensure they do not exacerbate existing health and social inequalities.”

The study team has received support from research charity Wellcome to launch an international network of studies called Covid-Minds, which will see dozens of scientists and clinicians collate and compare results from mental health studies from around the world.

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