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Time use and mental health in UK adults during an 11-week COVID-19 lockdown: a panel analysis
The British Journal of Psychiatry  (IF9.319),  Pub Date : 2021-05-12, DOI: 10.1192/bjp.2021.44
Feifei Bu, Andrew Steptoe, Hei Wan Mak, Daisy Fancourt


There is currently major concern about the impact of the global COVID-19 outbreak on mental health. But it remains unclear how individual behaviours could exacerbate or protect against adverse changes in mental health.


To examine the associations between specific activities (or time use) and mental health and well-being among people during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Data were from the UCL COVID-19 Social Study, a panel study collecting data weekly during the COVID-19 pandemic. The analytical sample consisted of 55 204 adults living in the UK who were followed up for the 11-week strict lockdown period from 21 March to 31 May 2020. Data were analysed using fixed-effects and Arellano–Bond models.


Changes in time spent on a range of activities were associated with changes in mental health and well-being. After controlling for bidirectionality, behaviours involving outdoor activities such as gardening and exercising predicted subsequent improvements in mental health and well-being, whereas increased time spent following news about COVID-19 predicted declines in mental health and well-being.


These results are relevant to the formulation of guidance for people obliged to spend extended periods in isolation during health emergencies and may help the public to maintain well-being during future lockdowns and pandemics.