How Covid’s influenced our healthy (and unhealthy) habits: a scientific study

The pandemic has taken a tremendous toll on society, and it’s impossible to find anyone who hasn’t been impacted by it in one way or another. One of the few positives to come out of the pandemic is the speed at which scientific research is being conducted.

The research.

We’ll take a look at some of the more technical research surrounding COVID in future blogs, but this time, we’re looking at an interesting study from Canada, by Colley et al in 2020. Although the study was conducted abroad, the individuals studied were experiencing a similar lockdown to that of the UK.

The research looks at how our behaviours have changed as a result of the pandemic.

They questioned 4,524 individuals, with questions aimed at establishing the differences in exercise, screen time, and general wellbeing.

Here’s what they found:

Only 55% of participants considered their mental wellbeing to be good, compared to 69% pre-pandemic, a change that was more prevalent in the women interviewed.

The study also compared those who exercised – either indoors or outdoors – to see how it impacted their habits and mental health.

It found that those men who exercised during lockdown suffered no decrease in mental or general health.

And of the women who exercised outdoors, a significantly higher proportion reported better mental health – particular in the age range over 35. The women’s group also found their general health was better if they exercised outdoors, rather than indoors.

But what about all the time spent watching Netflix?

Unsurprisingly, two-thirds of participants reported watching more TV and using the internet more during the pandemic.

However, there was a correlation between those who’d spent the same or less time watching TV since the pandemic began, and positive mental health.

What conclusions can we draw?

Overall, we can’t prove causation from the findings of this study, but it certainly gives an interesting insight into how changes in habits during lockdown can help us recognise and prevent damaging behaviours that can lead to health issues down the line.

For instance, the study showed that those who exercised outdoors and limited their screen time where found to have the highest likelihood of good mental health or the lowest risk of poor mental health.

Now, I know what you might be thinking:

Those findings are not hugely surprising – especially when as a society we generally weren’t getting outdoors enough or were spending too much time in front of screens.

But, hopefully, it acts as a stark reminder to make the most of our exercise time each day and explore the outdoors in a safe way – without breaking any guidelines, of course.