Between gyms being closed, fitness classes stopped and outdoor exercise limited for large parts of lockdown, we looked at how coronavirus and lockdown has affected our physical wellbeing in our latest piece of research.
Our Divided Together report asked 1500 people not just about how coronavirus and lockdown had affected their physical, mental and financial wellbeing. Want all the facts at a glance? Take a look at our employee insight factsheets.
Decreasing physical wellbeing
Despite the sudden increase in people pounding the pavements, a third of respondents told us their physical health had got worse during lockdown, including 7% who say it’s got a lot worse.
Interestingly, those who were mostly likely to report declining physical health were people who’ve been furloughed.
This could be linked to the fact that one of the main reasons given for this decline was people missing their usual routine (48%) and not being able to go to the gym (29%).
It’s not just activity levels: almost half (48%) of those whose physical health has got worse said it was down to not eating as healthily.
Our research showed that work continues to take its toll on people’s physical health even when people are working in new places and new ways.
A significant minority (16%) put their declining physical health down to being uncomfortable working from home and 14% mentioned working more than they used to.
With obesity already a significant problem in the UK and a risk factor for more serious cases of coronavirus, regaining the lost ground in terms of physical activity will be key to helping the nation’s wellbeing recover and building resilience against a further outbreak.
A boost for some
Whilst a third say their physical health has declined, just under a quarter (24%) say it’s improved, including 6% who say it’s got a lot better.
Those who’ve been working from home and parents were the groups most likely to have seen an improvement, pointing to more exercise (74%) as the main reason.
Food also played a role for this group, with 43% saying that cooking from home more had helped improve their physical wellbeing.
It seems there’s also a link to the slower pace of lockdown life and physical wellbeing. Over a third (36%) said that feeling more relaxed was behind their improved physical health and going out less (27%) was also highlighted as a reason.
Experience with Covid-19
We asked all respondents about their experience with coronavirus, looking at whether they or someone around them has had the virus.
The research found that people were likely to know someone who’d had or has it, but less likely to have had it themselves.
Overall, 7% of respondents said they thought they’d already had coronavirus, increasingly significantly amongst those who’ve continued going into work where 12% say they’ve had it.
Even if they haven’t had the virus, a significant minority said they know someone who currently has it (12%) with a shocking 16% saying they know someone who has died from it.
These challenging experiences show the link between our physical health and the health of our loved ones and the toll it can take on our mental health.
As a result, 57% say they’re worried about their personal safety going back to work with 64% saying it’s not safe to return from a health point of view.
Employers will need to take these difficult experiences into account when planning the return to work, providing additional support where needed.
Covid-19 has blurred the line between work and home like never before, and it’s lead to increased expectations of employers.
As well as taking more responsibility for safeguarding employee health, people are also looking for more wellbeing support.
Just under a quarter (23%) say they want more support with their physical wellbeing from the company they work for, with demand highest amongst parents (26%) and key workers (24%).
Take a look at our articles on how key workers are feeling and how coronavirus has affected the nation’s mental health for more information and support.