COVID-19 🦠 Our latest insights into behaviour and experiences in the UK

People for Research
5 min readMay 11, 2021

With the 17th May roadmap milestone right around the corner, it feels like the UK is getting ready to get back to normality.

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

We have run a series of surveys during the pandemic focusing on mental health, physical health and people’s behaviour, to try and better understand how people are adapting to life in lockdown. You can take a look at our work here.

With salons and pub gardens now open and more changes about to be announced ahead of 17th May, we wondered how the UK is handling this return to normality-ish.

We recently ran yet another survey with our online community to find out what people’s plans are as the roadmap develops, as well as if Brits are open to going back to face-to-face research.

You can check our report on the PFR blog 👇

Behaviours and experiences

The first element of past behaviour we looked at was how people have changed since the lockdown restrictions eased on 12th April. We asked whether people had visited various places since restrictions eased, and here are the results:

🛍 58.3% have gone shopping to a non-essential retail shop

🍻 40.8% have visited a pub/hospitality venue

💇 38.3% have visited a hairdresser or nail salon

🏋🏿 14.7% have been to a gym

🕳️ 18.9% haven’t done anything different

When it comes to regions, 20.3% of people in London and 21.1% of people in the South East have visited a gym. This is considerably more than the rest of the country, the third most popular location for gym goers is the North West with 13.4%.

50.4% of people in the South West have visited a pub within a week of restrictions easing — this is higher than anywhere else in the country. By contrast, only 28.4% of people in the East of England visited a pub in the same period.

53.0% of people claim to have followed all of the rules of lockdown between 26th December and 8th March.

People in the East of England have been the most rule-abiding part of the country, with 63.5% of people saying they followed all the rules. Elsewhere, in the South West of England, only 48.6% of people said they had stuck to all the rules.

58.8% of people think they are more cautious than other members of the public when it comes to the pandemic.

People generally think they’re a lot more cautious than other members of the public — this is likely explained by the concept of illusory superiority, which is a cognitive bias where an individual overestimates their own actions.

40.9% of people entered another household between 26th December and 12th April (when we weren’t technically allowed to do so). 22.2% did this for social reasons. People in Wales and Scotland were more likely to visit another household in this time period, with 44.3% and 45.1% going into other people’s houses.

On to the rest of 2021

We also wanted to find out more about people’s long term plans regarding holidays, international travel and behavioural habits potentially changing in the next nine months. We’ll start with holidays!

41.3% of people are not going on holiday this year, with 38.3% holidaying in the UK and 22.7% planning on going to Europe this year.

One in five people are planning on travelling around Europe, which is quite a high number considering the slower vaccine rollout on the continent. Two in five people are not planning on going on holiday at all this year, with staycations becoming more popular than ever, as far as we are aware.

53.0% of people say they would not feel comfortable travelling internationally in the next six months.

This says a lot, not just about the virus around the world, but how comfortable people feel about air travel at the moment. This might be uncomfortable for people who feel that being in close proximity with strangers is a risk.

Hand sanitiser, face masks and social distancing could become the norm, with 79.5%, 68.4% and 63.6% of people respectively saying they will keep up these habits for the remainder of 2021.

At the start of the pandemic, there was a reluctance to start wearing face masks in public, but this shifted in September 2020 when 84.4% of people said they are adhering to the rules with regards to wearing protective facial accessories. This looks set to continue for the remainder of the year, with 68.4% of people wanting to wear masks in shops at least until 2022.

Personally, I’ve been practising social distancing for nearly 30 years, so I’m not surprised 63.6% of people want to continue this for the rest of 2021.

Let’s now look into what people are prioritising after the pandemic. Most of us have changed priorities as a result of the pandemic, and are more likely to care about family, friends and mental wellbeing than we did previously.

👪 74.9% of people care more about their family than they did before the pandemic.

🧘🏽 67.6% of people care more about their mental wellbeing.

🤟🏽 57.4% of people care more about their friends.

🏃 Other important elements in people’s lives are supporting local businesses (49.0%) and exercise (47.6%).

People are caring less about politics, travelling the world and work, with 33.6% of people saying they no longer pay attention to politics, 25.1% saying they are prioritising work less and 23.3% saying they don’t mind travelling as much as they did before the pandemic. Politics-wise, this was quite a big talking point in our survey’s open-ended questions: it feels like people are becoming increasingly irritated with politics (and politicians) and aware of its consequences.

Overall, with the vaccine rollout and restrictions easing, people seem to be tentatively stepping out of their houses and back into old routines.

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