Pandemic drives spike in concerns about wellbeing as 1 in 3 adults say their mental health has got worse in the last year

A new survey reveals that 37% of UK adults are now more concerned about their mental health because of COVID-19, and 15% admit to having done no exercise at all in the last year.

A new survey of 8000 UK adults has highlighted the continuing impacts of the pandemic on wellbeing, with a third of respondents (34%) reporting their mental health has got worse in the last year, and one in nine (11%) saying it has got significantly worse.

Nuffield Health’s Healthier Nation Index found that over a third of adults (37%) are now more concerned about their mental health as a result of Covid-19, rising to 40% who are more concerned about their physical health.

Despite this, 42% have spent no time looking after their mental health and 15% admit to having done no exercise at all in the last year. Three quarters are not meeting the NHS recommended 75 minutes a week of vigorous activity, with the average Brit completing just 40 minutes a week.

Analysis of the survey has highlighted the benefits of doing just a small amount of exercise, with just 15 minutes of exercise a week leading to a boost in both mental and physical health1. In response to the findings Nuffield Health, the UK’s largest healthcare charity, has launched the “Find Time For Your Mind” campaign.

The campaign encourages people to #find5 and spend just five extra minutes a day exercising and focusing on their mental wellbeing. This additional time would boost the 40 minutes average in the survey to the NHS guideline of 75 minutes a week, putting people on a pathway to mental and physical wellbeing.

The Index, which is in its second year, also found that:

  • Over a quarter (27%) of UK adults are motivated to exercise as it helps their mental health, more than those who are motivated by the fact it helps their physical health (21%) or those that enjoy exercise and like to keep fit (19%).
  • 60% say a lack of motivation is a barrier to exercising and a third (32%) don’t know how to get started.
  • This rises to 48% of 16–24-year-olds, and 40% of women also cited embarrassment is a barrier to exercise, compared with 29% of men.

The charity is launching a series of free-to-access interactive guides to help overcome these barriers, providing people with easy ways to start exercising and find time for physical and mental health.

Commenting on the findings, Nigel Owens, former international rugby union referee and Mental Wellbeing Ambassador for the Healthier Nation Index said: "Knowing where, how and why to start exercising can be overwhelming, however, I know through my own experiences that being active even in the smallest way is so important for both mental and physical health, and I’m proud to be championing this important campaign.

“We’re urging everyone to #find5 and do whatever workout feels good for them – it could even include carrying heavy shopping from the supermarket or dancing around your kitchen.”

Gosia Bowling, Emotional Wellbeing Lead at Nuffield Health, added: “The findings from this year’s Healthier Nation Index are a stark warning that as an industry and society we need to boost our activity levels in order to counteract the mental and physical health crisis we are facing after two years of the pandemic.

“Five minutes a day will put people on a pathway back to good health, overcoming the initial barrier of getting started and helping develop better habits. Taking a proactive and connected approach to our emotional and physical wellbeing is vital as we look to recover and build a healthier nation.”

The Find 5 campaign is designed to help people proactively look after their wellbeing and kick start the development of healthy habits. If you need help for a mental health crisis or emergency, you should get immediate expert advice and assessment.


Notes to editors

For more information contact: Millie Hinton,

Methodology: The total sample size was 8,000 adults (aged 16+) across the UK. Fieldwork was undertaken between 14 February and 28 February 2022. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are nationally representative, unless indicated otherwise. Censuswide abides by and employs members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles.

A copy of the dataset used can be provided on request.

About Nuffield Health
Nuffield Health is the UK’s largest healthcare charity. For the last 60 years, Nuffield Health’s experts have been working together to make the nation fitter, healthier, happier and stronger, all for the public benefit. We do this through outstanding day-to-day services in our family of 36 award-winning hospitals, 113 fitness and wellbeing centres, healthcare clinics, and over 125 workplace wellbeing services, and through our flagship programmes to support communities by widening access.

What makes us unique is the breadth of our expertise to provide connected care spanning from personal training and health MOTs to supporting people on their fitness journeys, helping patients recover with physiotherapy or emotional wellbeing services, or providing hospital treatments for illness and serious conditions like arthritis or cancer.

But what also makes us different is our commitment to our flagship programmes to widen access, be that improving the lives of hundreds of children with cystic fibrosis through free exercise classes, or by pioneering the world’s largest research project into how exercise can help men recovering from prostate cancer, or by partnering with schools to provide thousands of pupils with free timetabled programmes to improve their health and wellbeing.

 Find out more about us and our pioneering models of care: or follow us on TwitterFacebookInstagram and LinkedIn

119.2% of participants who completed under 15 minutes of exercise a week reported better mental health over the last year compared to 10.9% of those who did no exercise. 16.4% of participants who completed under 15 minutes of exercise per week reported better physical health over the last year compared to 7.4% who did none.

Last updated Monday 25 April 2022

First published on Monday 25 April 2022