Scots now exercising less and watching more TV than in first lockdown

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OVER one in three Scots are exercising less in the current Covid-19 lockdown than in the first, with just around one in ten saying they exercise more, according to new research.

Conversely, around one in six (17.4%) of Scots are reporting watching television, streaming films and gaming, more than in the first lockdown, with 12.4% doing these activities less.

The UK’s largest study into how people are feeling about the lockdown has led to new calls to ensure people know how to get access to mental health support.

The study by the University College London also reveals that over one in five Scots (21.9%) are working more, in particular those aged 18 to 29.

People are also engaging less with hobbies than they were in the first lockdown, with nearly one in seven (15.1%) reporting reduced involvement with arts and crafts and 16.8% saying they are less engaged with other hobbies, such as gardening and DIY.

Just 7.4% and 5.3% reported doing these activities more.

Volunteering has also decreased, with 7% spending less time volunteering and just 13% increasing their volunteering during the current lockdown.

The research found that the behavioural differences to the first lockdown have occurred alongside worsening mental health.

Happiness levels have decreased during the current lockdown, reaching lower levels than during April 2020.

Respondents across the UK when asked to what extent they felt happy during the past week on a scale from 0 (not at all) to 10 (completely), the average in the past week was 5.6, against 5.8 in April.

Launched in the week before the latest lockdown started, the ongoing UCL Covid-19 Social Study has followed 70,000 participants across the last 44 weeks.

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Cheryl Lloyd, Education Programme Head at the Nuffield Foundation said: “The findings highlight the mental health impact of the current Covid-19 lockdown with people reporting worsening levels of depression and anxiety, along with lower levels of life satisfaction.

“Some groups are more at risk than others including women, those on lower incomes and people from ethnic minority backgrounds. With lockdown set to continue for the foreseeable future, it is crucial that efforts are made to ensure people know how to access mental health support and that this support is available to those who need it.”

It comes as Scotland’s first Psychological Resilience Hub aimed at helping with the mental effects of Covid-19 has seen a spike in demand.

The virtual “first aid” service based on that established after the Manchester Arena terror attack – trained clinicians are not only dealing with an increase in cases, but an increase in the number of people presenting with more serious signs of anxiety and depression.

As of September, around 1400 people had sought help from the team, which offers up to three virtual sessions on approach.

That figure has now reached 2140, including more than 400 staff and 250 people aged under 18.

Lead UCL author, Dr Daisy Fancourt said: “It is not surprising that the current lockdown has seen fewer people exercising than the first, taking place as it does during the winter months, but this is still a cause for concern as exercise can boost not just physical, but also mental wellbeing.

“The reduction in time spent on hobbies and volunteering can partially be explained by the increased time spent working, but also hints that the novelty of increased free time that came with the first lockdown has worn thin among much of the population, with many turning towards television and gaming to fill their time.

“This is further reflected in the lower levels of happiness during the current lockdown, another sign that many people are finding this lockdown much tougher than the first and are now more focussed on coping with their current circumstances, rather than attempting to find ways to enjoy them.”

Changes in behaviours and mental health are reflected in people’s assessments of the differences in their lives between this lockdown and that of spring 2020.

Just 25% of people report that their lives feel the same as during the first lockdown, despite the restrictions being similar. The remainder are finding their lives different, ranging from 42% finding things a little different to 15% finding things very or completely different.

Despite these changes in behaviour and mental health, compliance with the rules has continued increasing since Christmas across the latest lockdown, and is now as high as it was at the end of the strict lockdown in the UK in May 2020.

‘Majority’ compliance is being reported by 97% of people – a continued improvement across all demographic groups – while ‘complete’ compliance is being reported by 60% of people.

And almost half (45%) of people are now worried about catching or becoming seriously ill from Covid-19; the highest level since the middle of the first lockdown back in April.

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