People’s perception of their general health is unchanged, with the majority considering themselves either average or somewhat healthy (70%). This comes despite media coverage highlighting the poor state of the nation’s health during the pandemic, particularly the high levels of overweight and obesity. The new government obesity strategy is consequently commencing from a difficult starting point, given that a shift in mindset is imperative to behaviour change.

The pandemic has been a wake-up call for some, with 47% of people stating that COVID-19 has made them more worried about the impact of their weight on their health. In addition, 26% of people report exercising more compared to before the COVID-19 outbreak. Health initiatives, as well as brands and services looking to harness this increased concern into action, need to work quickly to provide the support and structures that help people change their habits, and make it as easy as possible.

Over half of people agreed that it’s expensive to eat healthily even before the pandemic hit. With the UK now in recession and unemployment rising, this perception will be a barrier as people cut back on products they believe are non-essentials. Beyond healthy food choices, other healthy lifestyle aspects entailing a financial outlay will be hit, from sports memberships and clothing to equipment and technology.

COVID-19 has exacerbated an anxiety epidemic within the UK. Of those reporting to feeling more anxious compared to before the COVID-19 outbreak, 47% would like more information on improving their mood. Furthermore, 36% of people would like more information on improving their energy levels. As such, brands offering mood boost ideas look set to win favour with an anxious nation. With lack of sleep interlinked with low mood and vice versa, there is also potential for many different products and services to gain from this interest in managing mood and energy.

Key issues covered in this Report

  • Health-related behaviours since COVID-19.

  • The state of the nation’s health and the amount of effort people put into staying healthy.

  • The state of mental health since COVID-19.

  • Interest in health-related behaviours in the future.

  • Behaviours and attitudes towards healthy lifestyles.

  • Health factors that consumers would like more information on.

COVID-19: Market context

The first COVID-19 cases were confirmed in the UK at the end of January, with a small number of cases in February. The government focused on the ‘contain’ stage of its strategy, with the country continuing to operate much as normal. As the case level rose, the government ordered the closure of non-essential stores on 20 March.

A wider lockdown requiring people to stay at home except for essential shopping, exercise and work ‘if absolutely necessary’ followed on 23 March. Initially, a three-week timeframe was put on the measures, which was extended in mid-April for another three weeks.

The Health Protections Regulations 2020 came into effect on 15 June allowing the reopening of all non-essential stores in England as well as the mandatory use of face coverings on public transport. Pubs, restaurants, hotels and hairdressers were able to reopen on 4 July, with many beauty businesses following on 13 July.

From 24 July, it became mandatory to wear face coverings in shops and supermarkets. Rules on travel remain fluid.

September saw the emergence of a second wave across the UK, and many areas across England began to be placed under local restrictions, before a new tiered system was announced by Boris Johnson on 12 October 2020. Scotland followed suit, starting its own tiered system on 2 November 2020.

Northern Ireland entered a month-long lockdown on 16 October, followed by a two-week “fire-break” lockdown imposed in Wales on 23 October. A new nationwide lockdown across England commenced on 5 November 2020, and is set to expire on 3 December 2020 at the time of writing. Restrictions are less rigid than before, with unlimited outdoor exercise allowed, but all non-essential shops are closed except for click-and-collect, with leisure and exercise venues also closed, and people are encouraged to stay at home as much as possible.

Economic and other assumptions

Mintel’s economic assumptions are based on the Office for Budget Responsibility’s central scenario included in its July 2020 Fiscal Sustainability Report. The scenario suggests that UK GDP could fall by 12.4% in 2020, recovering by 8.7% in 2021, and that unemployment will reach 8.8% by the end of 2020, and 10.1% by the end of 2021.

The current uncertainty means that there is wide variation on the range of forecasts, however, and this is reflected in the OBR’s own scenarios. In its upside scenario, economic activity returns to pre-COVID-19 levels by Q1 2021. Its more negative scenario, by contrast, would mean that GDP doesn’t recover until Q3 2024.

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