Early reports suggest that lockdown measures associated with the COVID-19 pandemic (e.g., social distancing) are having adverse consequences for people’s mental health, including increases in maladaptive eating habits and body dissatisfaction. Certain groups, such as those with pre-existing mental health difficulties, may be especially at risk. The current study explored perceived changes in eating, exercise, and body image during lockdown within the United Kingdom, using an online survey (n = 264). There were large individual differences in perceived changes in eating, exercise, and body image in this period. Women were more likely than men to report increasing struggles with regulating eating, preoccupation with food and worsening body image. Those with a current/past diagnosis of eating disorders reported significantly greater difficulties in regulating eating, increased preoccupation with food, exercise thoughts and behaviours and concern about appearance, even when compared to those with other mental health and developmental disorders. Ongoing research to explore individual differences in the trajectories of change in eating, exercise and body image as lockdown measures ease will be important for understanding the full psychological impact of this pandemic and improve service and public health planning going forward.


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Robertson, M., Duffy, F., Newman, E., Prieto Bravo, C., Ates, H. & Sharpe, H. 2021, 'Exploring changes in body image, eating and exercise during the COVID-19 lockdown: A UK survey', Appetite, 159(S1), article no: 105062. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2020.105062

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Last updated: 16 June 2022
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