Lockdown Having Mixed Impacts on Scots Diet and Health

02 June 2020


Today, Obesity Action Scotland is calling on the Scottish Government to ensure policies to achieve healthy weight and improved diet for Scotland’s population are central to coronavirus response and recovery plans.  This is to reflect new polling data which demonstrates the effect the coronavirus response has had on our diet and physical activity levels.

The response to the pandemic has led to us spending more time at home and 43% of people in Scotland are now cooking from scratch more and 21% are eating together as a family more.  This has caused a positive shift in some fundamental aspects of our food culture.   44% of people are eating fewer takeaways and 28% eating fewer ready meals.  In other good news 29% are eating more fruit and vegetables. Around a third of people in Scotland also report increasing the amount of indoor physical activity they do.

However, there are a few areas in which lifestyle in Scotland has got worse since the coronavirus outbreak. The majority of people in Scotland (54%) are eating more out of boredom. Specifically, 49% report eating more cakes and biscuits, 47% eating more confectionery, 38% eating more savoury snacks, and 34% eating more long-shelf-life foods. Over a third of the respondents (34%) admit to drinking more alcohol compared to before the outbreak.

Since we were already a nation that ate 3 times the recommended daily intake of sugar these changing habits are likely to impact on our waistlines and health.

Obesity Action Scotland also asked people their thoughts on how their lifestyle has changed since the coronavirus outbreak.  51% think their mental health has worsened, 41% that their physical activity levels have worsened and 35% that their diet has worsened.   The survey also shows that a majority (63%) are concerned about their body weight.

The changed environment in which we now live as a result of responding to the coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on our lifestyles and although some of those changes are positive it is clear they are outweighed by the negative impacts.

On publishing the new polling data Lorraine Tulloch, Programme Lead of Obesity Action Scotland said:

“The measures necessary to respond to this pandemic were always going to have an impact on our day to day life. The impact this polling demonstrates it has had on our diet needs to be addressed as we move forward.  We must harness the positive changes that have allowed us to find more time and value for food whilst addressing the negative consequences of an increased intake of sugary snacks.

We need to re-double our efforts to improve the diet of the people of Scotland and ensure everyone has access to affordable healthy food.  Actions to achieve healthy weight need to be central to the Scottish Government’s recovery plans”

Mark Diffley, Director of MDCR which undertook the polling said:

“Our new polling adds significant evidence to the impact that the pandemic is having on life in Scotland, highlighting how our eating, cooking and lifestyle choices continue to change in response to the restrictions placed on our lives.

The survey reveals that most Scots (56%) are spending more on food since the pandemic began, compared to 17% spending less, and that the driver for additional consumption may be the restrictions caused by the pandemic, with 54% saying that they are eating more “out of boredom.

Although this extra eating and drinking spans both healthy and unhealthy choices, it is clear that more people think their diet has got worse since the pandemic started (35%) than got better (22%).”