Age, economic insecurity, and mental health in England across Covid-19 pandemic lockdown

The  second report from the recently funded Unit for Biocultural Variation and Obesity (UBVO) project 'Changes in mental health, eating and physical activity in England across Covid-19 pandemic lockdown' has just been released.  The work is funded by the University's Social Science Division 'COVID-19: Economic, Social, Cultural, & Environmental Impacts - Urgent Response Fund'. 

Age, economic insecurity, and mental health in England across Covid-19 pandemic lockdown

Preliminary results from a UBVO study show that mental health worsened during England’s lockdown measures. There was a strong association between economic insecurity and worse health outcomes, yet negative mental health outcomes were worse among younger participants, even after controlling for level of economic insecurity. 

An electronic questionnaire survey of 1,109 adults age 18 to 87 years across England concerning mental health, eating, and physical activity before and during lockdown was carried out by the University of Oxford between 19th June and 31st July 2020.  

Results show: 

  • Mental well-being decreased across all groups 
  • Lockdown exacerbated pre-existing mental health concerns, particularly: poor sleep, anxiety, persistent sadness, binge eating, and thoughts of suicide 
  • Health outcomes were generally worse among those experiencing economic insecurity 
  • Young people reported the worst mental health outcomes, even after taking into account economic insecurity 
  • Poorer health outcomes were linked to stress, decreased physical activity, and changed eating patterns. 

Learn more about this research at 

This study was supported by the University of Oxford Social Sciences Division COVID-19: Economic, Social, Cultural, & Environmental Impacts - Urgent Response Fund.  

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:
Sabine Parrish, project administrator |


The article 'Health and medicine cannot solve COVID-19' was published in The Lancet on 29 August 2020.


About the Unit for Biocultural Variation and Obesity

The Unit for Biocultural Variation and Obesity (UBVO) is an interdisciplinary research unit based in the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography, University of Oxford. We are dedicated to understanding the complex and interwoven causes of obesity in populations across the world. Our Fellows, Associates, and students represent a diversity of disciplines, both within and beyond the academic sphere, and we bring together scholars of different disciplines to identify and work on multidisciplinary problems in obesity, and of the socio-cultural and political correlates and drivers of this phenomenon in particular. Discipline areas involved in collaboration at Oxford include anthropology, public health, epidemiology, politics and international relations, economic history, and sociology.

Learn more about our work at