Unknowns around scale of lockdown unhealthy lifestyle habits ‘could create a health time bomb’

East Riding Council officials should be prepared for a potential health “time bomb” after the coronavirus lockdown has seen some turn to drinking, over eating or develop anxieties around easing.

Friday, 12th March 2021, 12:55 pm
The East Riding of Yorkshire Council's offices in Beverley.

East Riding Council Health, Care and Wellbeing Overview and Scrutiny Sub-Committee member Cllr Paul Lissiter said residents who have exercised more during the pandemic should be encouraged to carry on.

But he added although there had been positive changes for some, more residents would be left with bad habits picked up during lockdown while spending more time at home.

Council Adults, Health and Customer Services Director John Skidmore said officials heard from GPs some residents’ vaccination appointments were the first time they had left home since last March.

He added the demand for mental health support had risen and officials were expecting a spike in “low level anxieties” as lockdown restrictions ease in the coming months.

Council Public Health Director Andy Kingdom said the pandemic had been a “big hit” both on lifestyles and on residents’ social life or work.

Cllr Lissiter said two groups may emerge from the lockdown, those who have taken the opportunity to exercise more and those who have fallen into bad habits.

The councillor said: “For the group that’s become more active they’ll have seen an improvement not only in their physical but also in their mental health.

“There’s one challenge around how we lock those positive changes in going forward.

“But for the other group, they’ve eaten badly, sat at home, maybe drank a bit more, watched Netflix and played computer games.

“They could become more anxious, this could be a time bomb in the future.”

Mr Skidmore said council officials were preparing different responses depending on the impact of the pandemic on individuals but added “unknowns” about lockdown’s impact remained.

The adults and health lead said: “We’re alert to what may emerge, we’re dealing with these issues and low level anxieties that result from them.

“For instance where we once had eating disorders, we’re now seeing disorderly eating.

“I’ve also spoken to GPs working on the vaccination programme who say that for some of those getting their jabs it’s the first time they’ve left the house since March.

“We don’t know yet what some of the effects will be, for the positive changes we’ll have to look at things like growing our leisure centre membership back.

“For those who are lonely or isolated or haven’t left the house we’ll need to look at getting them back into the community.”

Mr Kingdom said the health needs of the population had “definitely changed” as a result of lockdown.

The director said: “Drug and alcohol intake has risen during lockdown and for others the impact has been more social and economic.

“Going forward it won’t just be about encouraging people to get a gym membership.

“A lot of people will be looking to make big lifestyle changes after lockdown almost like a New Year’s Resolution, they’ll be thinking I need to get my life back.”

Adult services head Lee Thompson said: “We want to look at how the East Riding bounces back from this.

“We’ve got a legal responsibility to respond to those people with complex needs, but we still don’t know fully how the lockdown will have affected people’s behaviour, we also need to look at the impact of long covid on those who’ve had it.

“But we need to be careful that we don’t just assume there will be a plethora of people who need support.”