More than one third have snacked unhealthily every day since pandemic began

More than a third of people have snacked on unhealthy food and drink at least once a day since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, a Public Health England (PHE) survey has revealed.

To help the public towards a “healthier lifestyle” in 2021, PHE on Monday launched a “Better Health” New Year campaign including a range of tools and apps to support people in making healthy choices.

Since the pandemic began, 35 per cent of people said they had snacked on unhealthy food and drinks at least once a day. Almost one third of smokers had smoked more since the second national lockdown, while 23 per cent of drinkers said their alcohol intake had increased.

But according to the survey of more than 5,000 adults, 43 per cent said they felt more motivated to make life changes this month compared to the same time last year.

Around two in five 40 to 60-year-olds said they planned on eating more healthily, while 29 per cent wanted to lose weight and 41 per cent to exercise more. Forty-three per cent of regular smokers said they planned to quit, while nearly half those who increased their alcohol intake said they intended to reduce it in 2021.

Dr Alison Tedstone, the chief nutritionist at Public Health England said: “The past year has been immensely challenging and being stuck at home much more this year, understandably, has seen some unhealthy habits creeping up on us all.

“But our survey shows the vast majority of us want to do something positive this year to improve our health, and now is a good time for a reset, whether it be eating more healthily, being a healthier weight, getting more active, stopping smoking or doing more to look after our mental health.”

PHE’s “Better Health” campaign, which includes new national TV, radio and social media advertising, offers support through apps, weight loss programmes and guidance on how to increase exercise, eat healthier and improve mental health.

It is aimed at all adults over 18, but with a focus on those aged 40 to 60, those from BAME backgrounds and those with long-term health conditions.

Evidence suggests being obese greatly increases a person’s chances of being admitted to intensive care with Covid, while those from BAME backgrounds also have a greater risk of being severely affected by the virus.

Jo Churchill, the public health minister, said: “We know many people want to make changes for a healthier lifestyle and we want to help them.”

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