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Study aims to reveal the health impacts of living in lockdown

PUBLISHED: 17:35 13 August 2020 | UPDATED: 17:35 13 August 2020

The lockdown saw people carry out all their work, leisure and social activities from home, and a new study hopes to reveal the impact its had on health and wellbeing   Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The lockdown saw people carry out all their work, leisure and social activities from home, and a new study hopes to reveal the impact its had on health and wellbeing Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

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A team of Norwich researchers are conducting a study to find out how the Covid-19 lockdown has affected people and therefore identify the types of support that will be needed if there’s a second lockdown.

Professor Caitlin Notley is an addiction specialist at University of East Anglia  Picture: UEAProfessor Caitlin Notley is an addiction specialist at University of East Anglia Picture: UEA

The Covid-19 lockdown has been a necessary action to protect the lives of people in the UK, but it will have had a number of unintended consequences to people’s mental and physical health.

Researchers based at the University of East Anglia at Norwich Research Park have been conducting the C-19 health and wellbeing tracker study started in early April to monitor changes in people’s physical and mental health behaviours.

Over 1,000 people were recruited to participate in the research – the majority of them from Norfolk – in which they have had to complete a brief daily online survey covering a number of aspects of their lifestyle.

Because the study has tracked the same people over time, it means that the data generated will enable the researchers to draw robust conclusions about how individuals have changed behaviours, which will then help practitioners to develop strategies and support to help people lead healthy lives as we emerge from the Covid-19 social restrictions.

Dr Felix Naughton, a senior lecturer in health psychology at University of East Anglia  Picture: UEADr Felix Naughton, a senior lecturer in health psychology at University of East Anglia Picture: UEA

The study is being co-led by addiction specialist Professor Caitlin Notley and Dr Felix Naughton, a senior lecturer in health psychology. Participants are asked to record their daily health behaviours and choices such as physical activity, diet, sleep, smoking, alcohol consumption, drug and substance use, as well as their wellbeing.

Caitlin’s field of expertise focuses on smoking, nicotine use, alcohol and substance use. She said: “From the outset of lockdown we felt it was vitally important to be able to track people’s health behaviours.

“Whilst we heard lots of anecdotal examples of people’s behaviours, if we are going to develop long-term strategies to help support people going through an unprecedented time of restricted movement and contact we have to have solid, empirical evidence on which to base recommendations.

“Because we have been using the same sample of people in this study and getting daily updates, we have been able to track in detail how their behaviour changed. For instance, when we have finished analysis, we’ll be able to see if people experienced a dip in their health and then recovered; whether they were okay to begin with and then got worse; or whether they started badly and then got getter as they got used to lockdown.

“It will be very interesting to see if the actual behaviours match our expectations. We will also be able to see how different groups of people behaved.”

Felix, who specialises in behaviour change, said: “As we have never experienced a situation like this where whole populations are severely restricted in their movements and contacts with friends and family, we have no yardstick by which to measure this period. Whether people feel isolated, disconnected, restricted or even liberated by lockdown, it will have very likely affected the routine of their daily lives, some of whom will have changed health behaviours, which in turn may impact their mental and/or physical health.

“We think this study will be an eye-opener in terms of what it will tell us about how people have dealt with issues that have cropped up, the type of support they were looking for and need now, and to prepare strategies for coping should we go into regional or national lockdowns later this year. It will be interesting to see what habits that have been picked up during lockdown may persist and whether people experience permanent changes that might affect their health and wellbeing.”

The team are planning to start to publish the findings of the study in early September and hope that they can be used as a practical tool in identifying the types of support that people need now and will need in the event of another lockdown.

Caitlin said: “We are indebted to our sample of volunteers who are taking part in this very valuable study – 62pc of the participants are from Norfolk so I would like to thank them for taking part. We have never lived through such a period as this, so the importance of running this study is huge. It will help to inform us of the effects that restrictions on normal life can have on the physical and mental wellbeing of people and be able to develop strategies to alleviate them. And, it’s not just lockdown that the findings will help us with. It will also help us have a much greater understanding of what we need to consider for people who experience conditions which confine them to their homes such as long-term illnesses or injuries, immobilisation, agoraphobia or the elderly population who cannot get out much.”

If you want to find out more information about the study you’ll find it here.


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