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Impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) on lifestyle


Around one in four adults (25%) across Great Britain reported always or often maintaining social distancing when meeting up with people outside their household and one in four (25%) reported having used a face covering when outside their home (14 September to 25 September 2022). In the same period, over 4 in 10 (43%) said they were very or somewhat worried about new variants of COVID-19.

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Preventative measures

Social distancing and face mask use have fallen since spring 2022

The proportion of adults taking preventative measures or feeling worried about COVID-19 has generally been decreasing since spring 2022.

Around one in four (25%) adults said they always or often maintained social distancing between 14 to 25 September 2022, a decrease from around 4 in 10 (38%) in the spring period (13 to 24 April 2022).

There was also a drop in the proportion of people who had used a face covering when outside their home, from 65% in the spring period to 25% in the latest period. Of those who reported having used a face covering in the latest period, just over half (52%) reported using it always or often, with just under half (47%) using it only sometimes or not very often. Around one in five (20%) adults who had travelled on public transport in the past seven days said they wore a face covering for part or all of their last journey.

Over 4 in 10 (43%) adults reported feeling very or somewhat worried about new variants of COVID-19. The majority of adults (84%) reported thinking that the booster vaccine is very important or important in slowing the spread of COVID-19.

Further estimates on the social impacts of COVID-19, with trends over time and breakdowns by age and sex, can be found in our Coronavirus (COVID-19) and other illnesses dataset.

Last updated: 30/09/2022

Read more about this in our Public opinions and social trends, Great Britain bulletin

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Older age groups were more likely than younger age groups to report social distancing always or often and being very or somewhat worried about new variants of COVID-19 in the latest period (14 September to 25 September 2022).

Among those who have met up with someone outside their household, around 4 in 10 (40%) adults aged 70 years and over said they maintained social distancing, compared with just under 1 in 10 (8%) adults aged 16 to 29 years.

Over half (52%) of adults aged 70 years and over were very or somewhat worried about new COVID-19 variants, compared with around 3 in 10 (29%) adults aged 16 to 29 years.

Last updated: 30/09/2022

Read more about this in our Public opinions and social trends, Great Britain bulletin

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Travel

Travel to and from the UK still below pre-coronavirus levels

There were an estimated 2.7 million visits to the UK by overseas residents in May 2022, down 21% on pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic levels of 3.4 million visits in May 2019. However, this is an improvement from April 2022, when visitor numbers were down 33% on pre-coronavirus levels in April 2019.

Holidays returned to being the most common reason for visits to the UK in May 2022 (38%, 1.0 million). This was followed by visiting friends or relatives (34%), which had overtaken holidays as the most popular reason for travel during the coronavirus pandemic.

UK residents made 6.0 million overseas visits in May 2022, down 27% on May 2019 (8.2 million). As with visits to the UK, this is an improvement from April 2022, when visits abroad were 33% down on pre-coronavirus levels. However, visits abroad have seen less of an improvement compared with pre-coronavirus levels than visits to the UK. This could be influenced by the disruption at airports caused by staff shortages, and the rising cost of living.

The estimates provided for 2022 should be treated with caution as the sample size is smaller than pre-coronavirus years. The data exclude the Eurotunnel and any travel across the Irish border.

Last updated: 20/09/2022

Read more about this in our Overseas travel and tourism: May 2022 provisional results bulletin

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Impact on clinically extremely vulnerable

Of people previously considered clinically extremely vulnerable (referred to throughout as “CEV people”), almost half (46%) were worried about the effect of COVID-19 on their life in April 2022, compared with 34% of the general adult population. The most common reason for feeling worried was the behaviour of others (39%). Other common reasons included feeling worried about the current number of positive cases (31%) and the constraints on social life, travel and relationships (31%). Not all response options are shown and 37% of people gave “other” as a reason for feeling worried.

More than half of CEV people reported that the COVID-19 pandemic had a negative effect on them (59%). They were more likely to report feeling lonely always or often (10%) than the general adult population (6%).

Last updated: 13/05/2022

Read more about this in our Coronavirus and clinically extremely vulnerable people in England: 4 April to 16 April 2022 bulletin

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Household spending and disposable income

In 2020, there was a 9.9% decline in household expenditure as a result of public health restrictions, reduced “social consumption” and reduced non-essential spending. Household expenditure started to increase again in 2021 and by the end of 2021, despite the emergence of the Omicron variant, household expenditure was 3.6% above its pre-coronavirus pandemic level.

Following a small fall in household income between April and June 2020, household income quickly recovered and continued to increase above pre-coronavirus pandemic levels in 2021. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), introduced in March 2020, helped maintain household income during the COVID-19 pandemic through the government subsiding wages and salaries.

Last updated: 17/06/2022

Read more about this in our Coronavirus and the impact on UK households and businesses: 2021 bulletin

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Recreation and culture and restaurants and hotel spending was lower in the year to March 2021, compared with 2020

Household expenditure in the UK, financial year ending 2021

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In March 2021, households spent the highest proportion of their total spending on housing, fuel and power (18%), food and non-alcoholic drinks (14%), and transport (13%). Recreation and culture and restaurants and hotel spending decreased (4 percentage points and 5 percentage points, respectively) in the year to March 2021, compared with the year to March 2020. This was driven by the lockdowns and government restrictions throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

Last updated: 18/07/2022

Read more about this in our Family Spending in the UK: April 2020 to March 2021 bulletin

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Online shopping falling back towards pre-pandemic trend

Percentage of retail sales made online, by seasonally adjusted value

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Online shopping has been growing in recent years, but the (COVID-19) pandemic appears to have accelerated the trend with large increases in online sales seen during the periods of national restrictions.

However, a decline has been seen in recent months with a shift back to shopping in store. Despite this, online sales remain high and above pre-pandemic levels. In May 2022, online spending accounted for 26.6% of all official retail sales, an increase from 19.7% in February 2020.

Last updated: 11/07/2022

Read more about this in our How our spending has changed since the end of coronavirus restrictions article

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Home and hybrid working

Younger age groups were generally less likely to work from home in the UK in the period October to December 2019. Those aged 16 to 29 years had the lowest percentage of homeworkers (6.3%), followed by those aged 30 to 39 years (12%). The highest percentage of homeworkers was for those aged 60 years and over (27.3%), followed by those aged 50 to 59 years (17.9%).

In January to March 2022, homeworking had increased in all age groups from October to December 2019. The highest increase was in those aged 30 to 39 years (20.1 percentage points). Those aged 60 years and over remained the most likely to be working from home, despite a relatively small increase (7.6 percentage points).

Changes in homeworking varied by both region and age group. Among those aged 16 to 29 years, the largest increase in homeworking was in London (28.4 percentage points), nearly double the next highest increase (Scotland, 15.4 percentage points).

Last updated: 11/07/2022

Read more about this in the Regional patterns in homeworking in the UK: 2019 to 2022 bulletin

Across the UK, in January to March 2022, around 1 in 7 people (14.3%) who did not mainly work from home (non-homeworkers) said they worked from home at least one day in the reference week they were surveyed about. This figure was highest in London (24.3%) and lowest in the East Midlands (9.1%).

Last updated: 11/07/2022

Read more about this in the Regional patterns in homeworking in the UK: 2019 to 2022 bulletin

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Further information


In response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OPN) was adapted to collect data on the social impacts of the pandemic. It provides insight into how people's personal, home and work lives have changed through the pandemic. The data shows these impacts among different parts of our society, for example, on people of different age, sex, health, or regions. From 30 March 2022, changes were made to the OPN. Survey questions regarding the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and preventative measures taken as a result were broadened to cover other illnesses. Estimates provided from this period onwards are not directly comparable with estimates for periods prior to this. For full details see Public opinions and social trends, Great Britain: 30 March to 24 April 2022.

The COVID-19 Test and Trace Cases Insights Survey aims to understand people’s experiences of self-isolation. We present a range of data from surveys and publications from the Office for National Statistics including the Economic activity and social change in the UK, real-time indicators.

To find out more about lifestyle data from different sources visit our more information page.

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Contact

Latest insights team
infection.survey.analysis@ons.gov.uk