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Impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) on lifestyle


Fewer adults in Great Britain are practising preventative measures to slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) compared with earlier in the year, although most still think they are important. Between 6 to 17 October 2021, approximately 3% of adults reported they had self-isolated in the past seven days.

Pupils working from home during the pandemic covered substantially less material than their peers in the classroom, according to teacher assessments (England, April 2020 to June 2021).

More than half of UK and overseas residents arriving into the UK said that social distancing had made them feel safe during their journey (August 2021). The proportion of UK and overseas residents arriving into the UK who said that COVID-19 testing was very important for their safety has decreased over time.

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Impact on education

Almost half of first year students reported that their academic performance had been significantly or majorly impacted since the start of the pandemic

  • Almost half (46%) of first year students reported that their academic performance had been significantly or majorly impacted since the start of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, although this is lower than the general student population (September to October 2021). 

  • Around 4 in 10 (38%) first year students reported that the reduction in face-to-face learning since the start of the pandemic meant they did not feel well-prepared, but 18% of students did not feel affected and 14% reported feeling well-prepared. 

  • Over half (53%) of first year students said they would prefer a mix of face-to-face and virtual lectures or seminars in the future, however, 40% wanted face-to-face sessions only and 5% wanted online only. 

Last updated: 27/10/2021

Read more about this in Coronavirus and first year higher education students: England, 4 October to 11 October 2021

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The majority (90%) of students have been vaccinated, with 78% reporting having had two doses and 12% reporting having only one dose (27 September to 4 October 2021). A minority (7%) of students said they had not been vaccinated. Of these, 31% said they were very or fairly likely to take a vaccine if offered and 58% said they were fairly or very unlikely to do so.

Students who had been vaccinated were more likely to think that COVID-19 poses a major or significant risk to them (53%), compared with those who had no vaccine doses (36%).

Last updated: 22/10/2021

Read more about this in Coronavirus and higher education students: England, 27 September to 4 October 2021

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Students were less likely to stay at home if they develop symptoms or to socially distance, compared with May 2021

  • When asked what they would do if they developed symptoms, 58% of students reported they would stay at home for 10 days (27 September to 4 October 2021). This is significantly lower than in late May (75%).  

  • Nearly half (49%) of students reported trying to keep a 2-metre distance from people outside their household always or most of the time. This has decreased from 83% reported in late May 2021, consistent with the rules on social distancing being relaxed.

Last updated: 22/10/2021

Read more about this in Coronavirus and higher education students: England, 27 September to 4 October 2021

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Pupils working from home during the pandemic covered substantially less material than their peers in the classroom

  • Pupils working from home during the pandemic covered substantially less material than their peers in the classroom, according to teacher assessments (England, April 2020 to June 2021). 

  • The difference between the materials covered by remote and in-class pupils was larger for primary schools than for secondary schools, with remote learning primary school pupils covering a much smaller fraction of the learning materials than their in-class peers. 

  • Younger pupils' learning was more dependent on parental involvement than older pupils. 

  • Remote learning has been less effective for the teaching of some subjects than for others, with a larger reduction in materials covered being reported for arts, design and technology than for other subjects.

Last updated: 22/09/2021

Read more about this in Remote schooling through the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, England: April 2020 to June 2021

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Remote learners in more deprived schools covered relatively less material than their in-class peers

Amount of learning materials covered by schools for remote learners as a proportion of learning materials covered by in-school learners, April 2020 to June 2021, split by free school meal (FSM) quartile

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One of the most consistent differences in the remote learning experience is between schools in different free school meals (FSM) quartiles. FSM are available to children whose parents receive certain cash benefits or universal credit. As a result, the proportion of FSM-eligible pupils in a school can be considered a measure for the level of deprivation in that school.

Remote learners in more deprived schools (schools with more free school meal eligible pupils, quartile 4) covered relatively less material than their in-class peers. There are several explanations for this pattern. It could be that teachers from more affluent schools (quartile 1) may be able to rely more on pupils having access to appropriate technology for remote working. Data from the National Foundation for Educational Research supports this, showing that teachers in the most deprived schools reported notably lower levels of pupil engagement and communication with their pupils. Teacher assessments also indicate that remote learners at more affluent schools have been less dependent on parental instruction over the course of the pandemic than pupils at schools in more deprived areas.

Last updated: 22/09/2021

Read more about this in Remote schooling through the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, England: April 2020 to June 2021

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Compliance with COVID-19 guidance

Adults are more likely to think social distancing is important than to practise it

Percentage of adults self-reporting behaviours and rating them as important or very important in slowing the spread of coronavirus, Great Britain, 30 June to 17 October 2021

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People were more likely to say that hand washing and social distancing were important or very important than they were to practise the measures themselves.

A total of 91% considered hand washing to be important or very important, while 82% said they washed their hands regularly when returning home. For social distancing, 84% of adults said it was important or very important in slowing the spread, but just 39% said they had always or often maintained it when meeting with others.

Last updated: 22/10/2021

Read more about this in Coronavirus and the social impacts on Great Britain

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Women and older adults place the greatest importance on COVID-19 preventative measures

Percentage of adults who consider non-pharmaceutical interventions to be important or very important, by sex and age group, Great Britain, 6 to 17 October 2021

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Men were less likely than women to consider measures such as hand washing, face coverings, social distancing and ventilation to be important in slowing the spread of coronavirus.

On all four measures – hand washing, face coverings, social distancing and ventilation – young people saw them as less important than older age groups. People aged 16 to 29 years were less likely than those aged over 70 years to view social distancing as important or very important (75% compared with 90%).

Last updated: 22/10/2021

Read more about this in Coronavirus and the social impacts on Great Britain

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Approximately 3% of adults reported self-isolating in the past seven days (6 to 17 October).

Being in contact with someone who tested positive and testing positive themselves (both 24%) were the most common reasons for self-isolation, followed by having symptoms of COVID-19 (17%).

Last updated: 22/10/2021

Read more about this in Coronavirus and the social impacts on Great Britain

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Impact on everyday life

The percentage of adults who think life will never return to normal has increased

Percentage of adults thinking life will return to normal, Great Britain, January to October 2021

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The percentage of adults thinking that life will never return to normal has risen to 12%, up from 3% at the start of the year, just before the third national lockdown, and 9% in mid-July, when all restrictions were lifted in England.

Uncertainty about life returning to normal has increased over the summer despite the lifting of restrictions, with 30% not sure when things will return to normal, up from 16% at the beginning of the year.

Last updated: 22/10/2021

Read more about this in Coronavirus and the social impacts on Great Britain

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Travel

More than half of UK and overseas residents arriving into the UK said that social distancing had made them feel safe during their journey

Proportion of interviewed UK and overseas residents categorised by how safe they felt because of social distancing during their journey and by month, UK, March 2021 to August 2021

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The majority of UK residents (59%) and overseas residents (65%) interviewed arriving into the UK in August 2021 said that social distancing during their journey made them feel safe. For both UK and overseas residents, these proportions were the lowest since March 2021.

In August 2021 a new response category “No social distancing in place” was added to the International Passenger Survey. This may lead to decreases in the proportion of responses to other categories when compared with previous months.

Last updated: 05/10/2021

Read more about this in Attitudes towards COVID-19 among passengers travelling into and out of the UK: March 2021 to August 2021

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The proportion of UK and overseas residents arriving into the UK who said that COVID-19 testing was very important for their safety has decreased over time.

Proportion of interviewed UK and overseas residents, arriving into the UK, categorised by how important they think taking a COVID-19 test is for safety by month, UK, March 2021 to August 2021

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In August 2021, 45% of UK residents and 54% of overseas residents arriving into the UK said that they thought a coronavirus (COVID-19) test was very important for safety. There has been a steady decline amongst both groups of travellers since February 2021 (73% and 75% respectively) and August was the first month that the proportion of UK residents who thought testing was very important fell below 50%.

Last updated: 05/10/2021

Read more about this in Attitudes towards COVID-19 among passengers travelling into and out of the UK: March 2021 to August 2021

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Environmental impact

Coronavirus restrictions saw household greenhouse gas emissions decrease

  • With more people staying at home last year, household greenhouse gas emissions dropped by 10% in 2020. 

  • A sharp reduction in personal travel, including commuting to work, drove household greenhouse gas emissions down by 16 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent compared with the year before.  

  • While more people were staying at home using more energy for heating in the winter or cooling in the summer, these additional emissions were more than offset by the drop in travel emissions. 

  • Air quality has also improved in 2020, with decreases in levels of pollutants such as PM10 (7.7% drop), carbon monoxide (6.3%) benzene (6.1%) and PM2.5 (6%). 

Last updated: 21/09/2021

Read more about this in Coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions and household emissions

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Further information


In response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey 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. The COVID-19 Test and Trace Cases Insights Survey is designed to understand self-isolation experiences of people who have been contacted by NHS Test and Trace.

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