COVID-19 and the Eating Behaviours and Emotional Wellbeing of UK Adults (CEBEW): A Cross-Sectional Observational Study


  • Martine Kehoe


Covid-19, Wellbeing, Eating behaviours, Exercise


Background: This study aims to compare the differences, before and during Covid-19 restrictions, in food intake and wellbeing respectively  while  ascertaining  the  relationship  between  various  food  groups  with  components  of wellbeing.

Methods: A cross-sectional observational study of UK adults (aged 18–65 years) was launched in March 2021 and conducted across the UK.  Due to the ever-changing public health rules for the various regions of  the  UK,  questions  around  food  consumption,  physical  activity,  emotional  wellbeing,  amount  of sleep and quality of sleep, required responses from “before” and “during” lockdown restrictions, with demographic and lifestyle factors being self-reported.  The study had two research questions: 1) Is there  a  difference  between  food  intake  and  wellbeing  respectively,  before  and  during  Covid-19 restrictions?  2) Are any changes in food intake and/or wellbeing linked to each other in a bidirectional manner?  Participants  (N  =  94)  were  UK  residents  aged  between  18  –  65  years  and  were  not  experiencing symptoms of Covid-19 or long Covid at the time of completion.

Results: Participants  were  predominantly  white  (87%),  single  (43%),  female  (71%),  aged  under  30  years (36%)  and  living  with  their  spouse  (43%)  with  no  children  (74%).    More  than  a  quarter  of  the participants  (26%)  lived  in  the  10%  most  deprived  areas  of  the  country  and  37%  were  classed  as obese.  There were statistically significant decreases in healthy foods (p = <.001); vigorous exercise  (p  =  .004);  muscle  strengthening  exercise  (p  =  <.002);  feeling  happy  /  calm  (p  =  <.001);  feeling cheerful / hopeful (p = <.001); sleeping hours (p = .003) and the quality of sleep (p = <.001).  There were also statistically significant increases in participants feeling lonely / isolated (p = <.001) and the consumption of unhealthy foods (p = <.001). There were positive correlations between increased light exercise and increased lean meat consumption (p = <.001) and an increase in the frequency of light exercise and feeling happy / calm (p = <.001).

Conclusions: Covid-19 restrictions impacted negatively on nutrition and exercise behaviours, and unhealthy food was associated with loneliness.