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Impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) on lifestyle


Almost 4 in 10 (39%) adults across Great Britain reported always or often maintaining social distancing and over half (57%) reported wearing a face covering when outside their home (27 April to 8 May 2022).

The proportion of people planning to hybrid work and spend most of their working hours at home has risen. In February 2022, more than three quarters (77%) of those who worked from home at some point said it improved their work life balance, while around half reported they had fewer distractions (53%). The most common reasons for businesses to use, or plan to use, homeworking permanently were improved staff wellbeing (60%) and reduced overheads (43%).

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Household spending and disposable income

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic prompted a historic shock to the UK economy, as measured by its gross domestic product (GDP). Between April and June 2020, when the first national lockdown took place, GDP fell by a record 19.4%. This was a result of public health measures including social distancing, travel restrictions and closure of non-essential shops. GDP then increased by 17.6% over summer 2020 as the country reopened. This level of change in GDP has not been seen since our quarterly series began in 1955.

Last updated: 24/05/2022

Read more about this in GDP and events in history: how the COVID-19 pandemic shocked the UK economy bulletin

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Household spending fell by over 20% between April and June 2020

Consumer Price Index, Unemployment rate (age 16 years and over, seasonally adjusted), Household final consumption expenditure, HM Land Registry UK House Price Index, 2014 to 2022

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Following a record fall in GDP of 19.4% between April and June 2020 when the first national lockdown took place, GDP largely recovered by 17.6% between July and September 2020 as restrictions were lifted. Despite a 1.2% drop in GDP over the first three months of 2021 with the Delta variant and another lockdown, the rest of the year saw gradual growth and GDP had returned to pre-coronavirus pandemic levels by the first quarter of 2022. 

The furlough scheme, affecting a total of 11.6 million jobs, significantly curbed the labour market impact. The unemployment rate rose from 3.8% at the end of 2019 to 5.2% by the end of 2020, but has continued to fall since 2020.

Household spending fell by a record 20% between April and June 2020, driven by falls in spending on restaurants, hotels, transport and recreation.  As restrictions eased in the third quarter of 2020, household spending rose by 19.6% as people spent more in restaurants, hotels and on transport. Household spending rose further in spring (8.5%) and summer (2.6%) 2021, making a steady return to pre-coronavirus pandemic levels. 

In the year up to June 2021, average house prices rose 13.5%, helped by low borrowing costs and the waiving of stamp duty on house purchases up to £500,000. 

Last updated: 24/05/2022

Read more about this in GDP and events in history: how the COVID-19 pandemic shocked the UK economy bulletin

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Household spending on eating out, leisure, travel and cultural activities (known as “social consumption”) declined during the coronavirus pandemic, compared with October to December (Quarter 4) 2019. Households have been unable and/or unwilling to spend on these types of social activities because of the restrictions in place and personal concerns for virus transmission.

The largest decline was in April to June (Quarter 2) 2020 when the first lockdown restrictions were in place for much of this time period. There were decreases in spending on restaurant and hotel services, transport services (such as air and rail), cultural services and sporting services.

Some sectors have recovered faster than others, with transport services spending still below the pre-pandemic period by October to December (Quarter 4) 2021.

Last updated: 06/04/2022

Read more about this in our Coronavirus (COVID-19) and its effects on household consumption, UK: January 2020 to December 2021 bulletin

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Spending on eating out, entertainment, and travel and hotels declined with the emergence of the Omicron variant

Compared with December 2019, Revolut data from December 2021 show that card spending:

  • was 3% lower overall 

  • decreased in pubs, restaurants, fast food; entertainment; travel and hotels; and retail, likely reflecting cautious behaviour by individuals and restrictions introduced to reduce the spread of Omicron. 

  • increased on food and drink, including supermarkets and convenience stories, likely reflecting a shift in demand from eating out 

Last updated: 06/04/2022

Read more about this in our Coronavirus (COVID-19) and its effects on household consumption, UK: January 2020 to December 2021 bulletin

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Those on lower incomes were more likely to be furloughed, while those on higher incomes were less likely to receive self-employment support.

Financial support schemes were made available across financial year 2020 to 2021 to both employed and self-employed people through the Coronavirus Job Support Scheme (CJRS), also known as furlough, and Self Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS).

Last updated: 28/03/2022

Read more about this in our Household and disposable income and inequality, UK: financial year ending 2021 bulletin

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Home and hybrid working

The proportion of people planning to spend most of their working hours at home has risen

Future plans of workers who worked from home because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Great Britain, 21 to 25 April 2021 and 3 to 13 February 2022

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In February 2022, most workers (84%) who had to work from home because of the COVID-19 pandemic said they planned to mix working from home and from their workplace in the future. The proportion of workers who planned to hybrid work at all has remained similar since April 2021. However, working patterns have shifted more in favour of spending most working hours at home.

The most common planned hybrid working pattern (42%) was working mostly from home and sometimes from their usual workplace. This is an increase from 30% in April 2021. The proportion who planned to split their time equally between work and home, or work mostly from their workplace and occasionally at home, has fallen.

Last updated: 23/05/2022

Read more about this in our Is hybrid working here to stay? article

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The proportion of workers hybrid working has risen in 2022

Proportion of working adults travelling to work, Great Britain, January 2021 to May 2022

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In spring 2022 (27 April to 8 May), when guidance to work from home because of the COVID-19 pandemic was no longer in place in Great Britain, 38% of working adults reported working from home at some point over the past seven days.

During 2022, the proportion of workers both working at home and at their usual workplace (“hybrid working”) has been rising. The proportion of those working from home only has fallen to around one in seven (14%). Nearly a quarter (24%) both worked from home and travelled to work.

Last updated: 23/05/2022

Read more about this in our Is hybrid working here to stay? article

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In February 2022, more than three-quarters (77%) of those who worked from home at some point said it improved their work life balance. Around half reported they had fewer distractions (53%), were quicker to complete work (52%) and reported improved wellbeing (47%).

The most common reasons for businesses to use, or plan to use, homeworking permanently were improved staff wellbeing (60%), reduced overheads (43%) and increased productivity (41%).

Last updated: 23/05/2022

Read more about this in our Is hybrid working here to stay? article

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Most information and communication businesses use or plan to use home working permanently

Proportion of businesses using, or planning to use, homeworking as a permanent business model, broken down by industry, weighted by count, UK, November 2020 to April 2022

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Overall, the proportion of businesses using or planning to use homeworking as a permanent business model increased slightly from 16% in autumn 2020 to 23% in early April 2022. However, this varied significantly by industry. The largest increase was in the information and communication industry increasing from 30.3% to 53.6%, followed by businesses in the education industry increasing from 17.4% to 37.1% (16 to 29 November 2020 and 4 to 17 April 2022).

Using homeworking, or planning to use it, was much lower in industries that are less adaptable to homeworking. In early April 2022, only 3% of businesses in the accommodation and food services industry and 5% in the construction industry were using or planned to use homeworking.

Last updated: 23/05/2022

Read more about this in our Is hybrid working here to stay? article

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Impact on society

Google Mobility data from the UK in the week to 13 May 2022 show that: 

  • visits to parks decreased by 4% from the previous week (week ending 5 May 2022) but were 38% above pre-coronavirus pandemic levels 

  • grocery and pharmacy visits increased by 1% and were 5% above pre-coronavirus pandemic levels  

  • retail and recreation visits decreased by 3% and were 11% below pre-coronavirus pandemic levels 

  • visits to workplaces increased by 10% but were 17% below pre-coronavirus pandemic levels 

  • visits to transit stations, such as bus and train stations, increased by 3% but were 23% below pre-coronavirus pandemic levels 

Seasonal events such as the weather and holiday periods may affect changes in the data.  

Last updated: 19/05/2022

Read more about this in our Economic activity and social change in the UK, real-time indicators: 19 May 2022 bulletin

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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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Over two-thirds of people previously considered clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV people) were no longer shielding in April 2022 but were taking extra precautions. Around one in eight (13%) reported continuing to follow shielding advice.

Most CEV people felt that it should be the law to self-isolate with a positive test (78%), that those with symptoms should continue to test (95%) and that removing mandatory testing for international arrivals increases risk of new variants (87%). Over half of CEV people felt that it should be the law to wear face masks in public spaces (59%). However, almost half thought that reducing the self-isolation period from 10 to 5 days was the right decision (46%).

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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The impact of the coronavirus pandemic has been greatest on “high-contact” service industries that are more reliant on physical interaction. This includes wholesale and retail, transportation and storage, accommodation and food services, arts, entertainment and recreation, and other services.

The output produced by “high-contact” industries fell by 37% compared with 17% for “low-contact” industries. Employment also fell more in “high-contact” industries (7.6% decrease) and furlough was higher, compared with “low-contact” industries (1.7% decrease).

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, within the retail industry, people shifted from shopping in-store to shopping online and outdoors. Personal transport was impacted more by travel restrictions than business transport. There was also a shift away from hotels towards holiday accommodation in camping, trailer parks and other short-stay accommodations. Creative, arts and entertainment activities remain below pre-coronavirus pandemic levels, possibly reflecting a reluctance to attend indoor facilities.

Last updated: 06/05/2022

Read more about this in our Effects of coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on "high-contact" industries bulletin

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Travel

The seven-day average number of UK daily flights increased by 2% in the week to 15 May 2022. Flight levels are nine times higher than the equivalent weeks of 2020, following the first UK-wide lockdown. However, they remain below (85%) the level seen in the equivalent week of 2019.

Last updated: 19/05/2022

Read more about this in our Economic activity and social change in the UK, real-time indicators: 19 May 2022 bulletin

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The proportion of travellers arriving in the UK who said COVID-19 testing was important for safety continued to decrease

Proportion of interviewed UK and overseas residents, arriving in the UK, categorised by how important they think taking a COVID-19 test is for safety by month, UK, October 2021 to March 2022

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The proportion of travellers who said that having a COVID-19 test before arriving in the UK is important for safety has decreased over recent months. In March 2022, around 6 in 10 travellers arriving in the UK said that having a COVID-19 test before arriving is either “very important” or “quite important” for safety (56% of UK residents and 63% of overseas residents). This is lower than the proportion of travellers reporting this in February 2022 (69% of UK residents and 78% of overseas residents).

Over half (59% of UK residents and 65% of overseas residents) said that the wearing of face coverings made them feel safe during their journey. Compared with February 2022, these proportions have decreased from 75% and 78%, respectively. Attitudes to the availability of hand sanitiser were similar, with 56% of UK residents and 59% of overseas residents saying it made them feel safe. These proportions have also decreased from 74% and 75% in February 2022.

Last updated: 04/05/2022

Read more about this in our Attitudes towards COVID-19 among passengers travelling into and out of the UK: October 2021 to March 2022 bulletin

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Preventative measures

The proportion of people wearing a face covering continued to decrease

When asked about the past seven days between 27 April and 8 May 2022: 

  • almost 4 in 10 adults (39%) reported always or often maintaining social distancing when outside their home (38% in the previous period) 

  • the proportion of those social distancing increased with age, from 24% for those aged 16 to 29 years to 58% for those aged 70 years and over  

  • over half of adults (57%) reported wearing a face covering when outside their home (65% in the previous period); of those, 68% reported doing so often or always 

  • less than half (41%) of those who use public transport reported wearing a face covering for their whole journey (49% in the previous period)  

  • around one in four adults (23%) reported they had taken a rapid lateral flow test (34% in the previous period) and almost 9 in 10 (89%) said they were very or fairly likely to be tested if they had COVID-19 symptoms (the same as in the previous period)  

  • a small proportion of adults (2%) reported staying at home because they did not want to spread COVID-19 (3% in the previous period) 

Last updated: 13/05/2022

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

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Since removal of the legal requirement to isolate, around half of those who tested positive fully complied with isolation advice

Of those who tested positive between 28 March and 2 April 2022: 

  • around half (51%) reported fully complying with isolation advice; a significantly lower proportion than those reported in early March 2022 (64%) and February 2022 (80%) but similar to the proportion reported in mid-March 2022 (53%) 

  • the majority (94%) told their employer that they were advised to self-isolate, despite the removal of the legal requirement to tell employers 

  • of those who had self-isolated since testing positive but had stopped isolating at the time of interview, around 85% had isolated for six days or more 

  • of those who did not fully follow the advice, 93% reported leaving the house for a non-compliant reason; the most common reason reported was for outdoor recreation or exercise (37%) 

Last updated: 10/05/2022

Read more about this in our Coronavirus and self-isolation after testing positive in England: 28 March to 2 April 2022 bulletin

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Impact on education

Attitudes towards face coverings in schools differed between primary and secondary schools. When asked in January to February 2022, just under two-thirds (61%) of secondary school headteachers thought face coverings “definitely” or “probably” should be made mandatory in schools. In contrast, nearly all primary school headteachers (97%) thought that face coverings “definitely” or “probably” should not be made mandatory.

Secondary school pupils’ attitudes are similar to headteachers’, with 70% stating that face coverings “definitely” or “probably” should be made mandatory in secondary schools.

For secondary schools, the recommendation for face coverings to be worn was removed for classrooms on 20 January 2022 and for communal areas on 27 January. After these changes, around half of secondary school pupils reported wearing face coverings in lessons (50%) or in corridors and communal areas (55%). There has never been a recommendation for primary school pupils to wear face coverings.

Last updated: 03/05/2022

Read more about this in our COVID-19 Schools Infection Survey, England bulletin

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According to their parents, 42% of primary school pupils and 38% of secondary school pupils who were set remote learning during the autumn term found it “difficult” or “very difficult”.

Both headteachers and parents recognised there were barriers to remote learning. The majority of primary (93%) and secondary school headteachers (91%) had at least one concern with remote teaching, with lack of pupil engagement being the most common. Around 6 in 10 parents said their child faced at least one issue with remote learning. The most common issue was struggling with motivation, for both primary (39%) and secondary school pupils (44%).

Last updated: 03/05/2022

Read more about this in our COVID-19 Schools Infection Survey, England bulletin

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Over half of higher education students said they would stay at home for at least five days if they developed COVID-19 symptoms

Of higher education students in England between 25 February and 7 March 2022: 

  • over half (62%) said they would stay at home for at least five days if they developed COVID-19 symptoms, despite the legal requirement to self-isolate ending. This is a similar proportion to late November 2021 when the legal isolation period was 10 days (60%) 

  • over one-quarter (27%) of students had zero hours of in-person teaching in the previous seven days; this is consistent with late November 2021 (24%) and significantly lower than late May 2021 (77%).

Last updated: 21/03/2022

Read more about this in our Coronavirus and higher education students: England, 25 February to 7 March 2022 bulletin

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Sickness absence

The sickness absence rate (or percentage of working hours lost because of sickness or injury) in the UK rose to 2.2% in 2021, from a record low of 1.8% in 2020. This is the highest rate since 2010, when it was also 2.2%. 

The coronavirus pandemic has affected sickness absence in many ways. While the virus may have led to additional sickness absence in 2020, measures such as furloughing, social distancing, shielding and increased homeworking helped reduce other causes of absence. However, the reduction of the furlough scheme, and its end in September 2021, together with the decline in homeworking, shielding, social distancing rules, and the emergence of new COVID-19 variants, have led to a rise in sickness absence in 2021 to above pre-coronavirus pandemic levels. 

Last updated: 29/04/2022 

Read more about this in our Sickness absence in the UK labour market: 2021 bulletin 

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The most common reason for sickness absence between 2017 and 2020 was minor illnesses. This changed in 2021, with “Other” conditions (which includes COVID-19, as well as accidents, poisonings, infectious diseases, skin disorders and diabetes) becoming the most common reason for sickness absence (26.9%). COVID-19 accounted for almost one in four (24.0%) of all occurrences of sickness absence in 2021. This increased from around one in seven (13.9%) in 2020.

Last updated: 29/04/2022

Read more about this in our Sickness absence in the UK labour market: 2021 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 22 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