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

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Seven in 10 adults are motivated to get healthier in 2021 due to COVID-19
  • Since the pandemic began, a third of people reported snacking on unhealthy food and drinks at least once a day (35%), almost a third (29%) of smokers agreed they smoked more since the second national lockdown and 23% of drinkers claimed that their alcohol intake has increased
  • However, almost half of the population (43%) feel more motivated to make changes to their life than they did in January 20201
  • For those aged 40-60, eating more healthily (40%), losing weight (39%) and exercising more (41%) were at the top of the list of changes
  • Public Health England has launched a major Better Health new year campaign to support adults to take up healthier habits in 2021

An England-wide survey of over 5,000 adults has found that eight in ten (80%) of adults aged 18+ have made the active decision to make changes to their lifestyle in 2021, with seven in 10 (68%) saying that they are motivated to make healthier lifestyle changes due to coronavirus.

Compared to last year, almost half of the population (43%)1 feel more motivated to make changes to their life in January.

Around 6 million adults2 aged 40 - 60 plan to eat more healthily (40%), lose weight (39%) and exercise more (41%).1 Evidence shows that being obese significantly increases your chance of being admitted to intensive care with COVID-19 compared to those with a healthy BMI.

In addition, four in 10 (43%) regular smokers plan to make a quit attempt in 2021 and nearly half of those who increased their alcohol intake during the second lockdown (45%) intend to reduce their alcohol intake this year.

To support the public in making these changes, Public Health England has launched its latest Better Health new year campaign to encourage the nation to work towards a healthier lifestyle, whether it’s losing weight, getting more active, looking after their mental wellbeing, or quitting smoking.

The campaign offers support through a variety of tools and apps, including the updated NHS 12 Week Weight Loss app. This comes as currently 28% of adults in England are living with obesity and 36% are overweight.

The survey revealed that 2020 and the impact of the pandemic saw people’s behaviours change, including:

  • A 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
  • A 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

Dr Alison Tedstone, Chief Nutritionist at Public Health England 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, comments:

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, and 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’re looking to make or what stage you are”.

The Better Health campaign provides a wide range of free NHS tools and advice to support healthier habits, including suggestions on how to increase physical activity, make healthier food choices, lose weight, improve mental health and quit smoking. The campaign includes new wide scale national TV, radio and social advertising.

This year, Better Health is also working in partnership with a number of weight management and physical activity partners who are providing both free and exclusive discounted offers. Alongside the advertising campaign, PHE has released a new film featuring households from across the country discussing their health journey in 2020 and their motivations for the new year.

The campaign targets all adults over 18, with a focus on those aged 40 - 60. There will be a particular emphasis on those groups who are most affected, including those from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities and those with long-term health conditions.

Search ‘Better Health’ or visit for free tools and support to help you make healthy changes.

The Better Health campaign film is available to view here


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