UCL News


How are our behaviours changing in lockdown?

25 June 2020

More than half of the UK population are now exercising or meditating at least once a day, while the younger generation are becoming more irritable and struggling the most, finds a new UCL-led study exploring how people are adapting their lifestyle during the COVID-19 pandemic.

my lockdown journal app

People have had to change their lifestyles to maintain a sense of normality during lockdown, and it is clear from social media that people are finding innovative ways to keep active, stay entertained and connect with those that matter most.

These behaviour changes are being captured through an online survey* led by a team from UCL IRDR Centre for Digital Public Health in Emergencies, who hope to better understand which activities people are doing less frequently, more frequently and the type of adaptations that allow them to continue doing the activities they enjoyed, or needed, pre-lockdown.

Initial findings from the first 4,000 survey responses since the beginning of April show that more than half of the sample population exercise more than once a day (52%) and are finding more time for relaxation and personal interests (59%). Generally, older generations are coping much better with isolation than younger people who say they are becoming more irritable, upset and distressed.

For 18-24 year olds, 36% reported being irritable ‘quite a lot’ and 8% ‘all the time’; 30% said they were distressed ‘quite a lot’ and 31% said they were upset ‘quite a lot’. Negative emotional feelings decreased with age and for people over 65 years old, 10% were distressed ‘quite a lot’, 13% upset ‘quite a lot’ and 11% irritable ‘quite a lot’, with very few stating ‘all the time’ for any of these feelings. 

Yoga, meditation and reading have seen the biggest increase in relaxation activities and walking, cycling and running are on the rise, with people doing more of previous sporting activities rather than finding new ones.

The findings from the survey have informed the design of a new app – My Lockdown Journal – to help people manage their time by logging their own activities and sharing inspiring ideas along with motivational quotes and tips for improving wellbeing.

Study lead, Professor Patty Kostkova (UCL Chair of Digital Health and Director of UCL IRDR Centre for Digital Public Health in Emergencies), said: “There are multiple survey-based studies seeking to understand the impact of lockdown on health and wellbeing but there are relatively few collating evidence on how people’s lives have changed and using that to support them in adapting the activities they enjoy, or sharing ideas for new activities, through an innovative digital app intervention.

“By understanding how people feel about new activities from the survey, we rapidly developed the app and hope to leverage our expertise in digital health to provide a practical public health intervention that helps people cope better during the lockdown and upcoming period of social distancing, directly support policy makers and public health professionals.”

People can use the app, and other social media platforms, to share their experiences using the hashtags #MyLockdownJournal and #LockdownJournal, which enters them into a competition to celebrate the most creative and motivating lockdown activities each week and celebrates the pictures through the app.

Dr Caroline Wood (UCL IRDR Centre for Digital Public Health in Emergencies), who worked on the survey and app design, said: “No-one knows quite how long we will be in lockdown, or whether we will experience future lockdowns, so it’s important to stay motivated to protect our mental and physical wellbeing.

“It is encouraging that more than half of those surveyed are still managing to stay active and find time to relax. However, lockdown is clearly taking a toll on our emotional wellbeing, particularly amongst 18-24 year olds. We hope the app encourages people to reflect on their own lockdown activities but importantly, prompts them to share these ideas so they can help inspire and motivate others who need it most.”

Designed with students from UCL Computer Science, the app promotes moments of personal reflection as well as social interaction and connection in an accessible way.

Georgiana Birjovanu, software engineer at the UCL IRDR Centre for Digital Public Health in Emergencies, said: “We hope the app is a novel, interactive and positive way to harness the sharing and recording of activities that people are doing throughout lockdown and that people enjoy using it. It’s an extremely unusual time and will provide insight into how people choose to engage with digital tools and social media during times of isolation and uncertainty.”

The Dutch company for public health learning solutions ‘Transmissible B.V.’ contributed to the thinking behind the app.

Arnold Bosman, Director at Transmissible, said: “It is increasingly clear that storytelling plays an important part in how well people deal with epidemics, the impact on daily life and the adoption of interventions and behaviour change. Keeping a personal journal, writing down your thoughts and feelings, and sharing elements of your life with others, may help a lot in coping with restrictions and perceived threat.”



  • My Lockdown Journal app

Media contact

Bex Caygill

Tel: +44 (0)20 3108 3846

Email: r.caygill [at] ucl.ac.uk