A new Public Health England campaign has been launched to help people across the country make better health and lifestyle choices.
Following the most recent decision from the UK government to enforce a national lockdown, physical and mental health are once again firmly in the spotlight as limits on travelling and access to outdoor spaces return.
In recent months, mental health in particular has been drawing attention across the UK, with reports indicating an increasing number of workers, students, healthcare professionals and teaching staff experiencing a deterioration of their mental health.
In the past week, an investigation from The Guardian revealed record levels of antidepressant prescriptions in England as the COVID-19 pandemic has cut access to in-person support services.
As awareness of mental and physical wellbeing has grown during the pandemic though, so has a desire to protect it.
A new survey from Public Health England of over 5,000 people shows that 8 in 10 adults have already decided to make healthier lifestyle choices, with 7 in 10 driven to do so by the pandemic.
The new outlook is at least in part due to unhealthy behavioural changes made by respondents in the past year, many of which are often linked to mental health quality.
Such behaviours include snacking on unhealthy food and drink at least once a day (35%), exercising less (30%), smoking more often (29%) – 42% of whom attributed their behaviour to feeling worried about their mental and physical wellbeing – and increasing alcohol intake (23%).
In response, 40% of respondents plan to eat more healthily, 39% plan to lose weight, 41% plan to exercise more, 43% of regular smokers plan to kick the habit, and 45% plan to reduce their alcohol intake in 2021, in comparison with their intake in 2020.
Public Health England's response to these findings is the 'Better Health new year' campaign which provides various apps and online tools through a dedicated website, including the acclaimed Couch to 5K and NHS 12-Week Weight Loss apps.
Although targeted at all adults over the age of 18, the campaign will focus on those aged 40 to 60 and communities most affected by the pandemic, including Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities and those with long-term health conditions.
"The past year has been immensely challenging and being stuck at home much more this year, understandably, has seen some unhealthy habits creeping up on us all," said Dr Alison Tedstone, Chief Nutritionist at PHE. "But our survey shows the vast majority of us want to do something positive this year to improve our health and now is a good time for a reset, whether it be eating more healthily, being a healthier weight, getting more active, stopping smoking or doing more to look after our mental health."
If you are considering making a change to your lifestyle and wellbeing, Better Health may help you. Visit the Better Health website here.