Pandemic Control Measures Continue to Impact on Diet and Weight

13 May 2021

Obesity Action Scotland is calling on newly elected MSPs to ensure policies and actions to achieve healthy weight and improved diet for Scotland’s population are central to coronavirus response and recovery plans.  This is to reflect new polling data which demonstrates the effect the coronavirus response has had on selected health determinants.

A year on since the first control measures were introduced a significant proportion of people are reporting negative impacts on their mental wellbeing (60%), their physical activity levels (47%) and their diet (40%).

With 47% of people reporting that their bodyweight has increased over the last year we would urge the Scottish Government and Parliament to ensure the necessary attention is given to the creation of health promoting environments that will help us achieve healthy weight.

The majority of people in Scotland (53%) are eating out of boredom more than they did previously and 46% report eating to cheer themselves up more often than pre-pandemic times.

Some of the favourable changes in diet which we reported in our May 2020 polling do appear to have been sustained such as people cooking from scratch more, eating together as a family more and eating more fruit and vegetables.  However, some of the poorer aspects of our diet remain with 43% of people reporting eating cakes and biscuits more and 42% eating confectionery more.

The changed environment in which we now live as a result of responding to the coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on health determinants.

On publishing the new polling data Lorraine Tulloch, Programme Lead of Obesity Action Scotland said:

“The measures necessary to respond to this pandemic were always going to have an impact on our day to day life.  What is concerning is the scale of the impact on mental wellbeing, physical activity, diet and weight.  Now that politicians are turning their attention to recovery plans we need to make sure that urgent action to achieve healthy weight in the Scottish population is taken.  We need this action to build a healthy and resilient population in Scotland.”

Mark Diffley, Director of the Diffley Partnership which undertook the polling said:

“This is a large-scale and significant survey of the adult population in Scotland and highlights a pressing need to address issues of physical and mental health as we emerge from the pandemic. In terms of physical health, it is of particular concern that 40% think their diets have worsened during the pandemic, while 47% say that their weight has increased during the same period. But the survey also highlights mental health concerns with 6 in 10 Scots reporting that their mental wellbeing and that of members of their family had got worse during lockdown. These are significant issues that highlight the need for urgent action.”



Obesity Action Scotland commissioned the Diffley Partnership to carry out a representative poll among adults in Scotland, to understand the effects of the coronavirus outbreak on a selection of health determinants. The polling fieldwork was carried out, online between 24th and 26th March 2020. The survey was conducted among 2244 adults (aged 16+) in Scotland.

Obesity Action Scotland has published two documents  A Summary of Results and The Topline Results