More than four in 10 adults in England have put on weight over the course of the pandemic, prompting a new government campaign to encourage physical activity and healthier eating.
Public Health England (PHE) found that 41% of 5,000 adults polled had put on weight since the first lockdown in March 2020.
The average weight gain was half a stone (4.1kg), but was over 10lbs (4.6kg) for those aged 35 to 65. Twenty-one per cent had put on a stone or more.
Unhealthy eating habits, like snacking and comfort eating, were reported as the main contributor to weight gain for 46% of those who gained weight.
Half of respondents said they would like to have a healthier diet, while 57% said they would welcome more advice on healthy eating on a budget and ideas for exercise routines.
PHE has launched a campaign, Better Health, which offers free evidence-based support and guidance around weight loss. It will promote a variety of NHS-endorsed apps to help set individuals on the path to healthier lifestyles, including the NHS Weight Loss Plan app.
The government is also set to launch a new Office for Health Promotion in the autumn, which aims to support people living with obesity, improve mental health and promote physical activity.
Public health minister Jo Churchill said: “The pandemic has been hugely challenging for everyone and it has upended our daily routines. As we build back better in the months ahead, we want to make it easier for people to adopt a healthier lifestyle that works for them.”
Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at PHE, said: “The past sixteen months have caused many to change their habits, so it is not a surprise to see so many people reporting weight gain.
“We know how hard it can be to lose weight and keep it off – so, we are providing a range of support options to help motivate people and help them maintain a healthy weight.”
There was also a significant increase in alcohol consumption at home during 2020 as well as a sharp rise in deaths due to alcohol-related diseases, a separate PHE report found earlier this month.
It revealed that the volume of alcohol sold in supermarkets and other shops increased by 25% in England between 2019 and 2020, equal to an extra 686m litres.
There were also 20% more alcohol-related deaths in 2020 than in 2019, as a result of conditions including alcoholic liver disease, alcohol poisoning and mental and behavioural disorders caused by alcohol.