Health behaviors and subsequent mental health problems during the COVID-19 pandemic: A longitudinal analysis of adults in the UK

Russell Jonsson, Kenisha, Taylor-Robinson, David C ORCID: 0000-0002-5828-7724, Schultz Straatmann, Viviane, Melis, Gabriella ORCID: 0000-0001-7532-2563 and Adjei, Nicholas Kofi
(2023) Health behaviors and subsequent mental health problems during the COVID-19 pandemic: A longitudinal analysis of adults in the UK. Frontiers in Public Health, 10. 1064677-.

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<jats:sec><jats:title>Introduction</jats:title><jats:p>Public health mitigation policies aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19 led to an increase in mental health problems (MHPs). This study examines the association between multiple pre-pandemic health behaviors and MHPs prior to, and during, the COVID-19 pandemic.</jats:p></jats:sec><jats:sec><jats:title>Methods</jats:title><jats:p>We analyzed a representative population sample of 11,256 adults (aged 20–65 years) from Understanding Society—The UK Household Longitudinal Study. Baseline data from participants interviewed in 2017/2019 (wave 9) were linked to web surveys conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic. We used latent class analysis (LCA) to identify mutually exclusive health behavior (physical activity, alcohol consumption, eating habits and smoking tobacco) clusters by gender, and examined the sociodemographic correlates of each cluster. We assessed how pre-pandemic latent classes of health behaviors were associated with changes in MHPs during the pandemic using fixed effects regression models.</jats:p></jats:sec><jats:sec><jats:title>Results</jats:title><jats:p>Three health behavior clusters were identified: positive (33%), moderate (24%), and high risk (43%), where similar behaviors clustered within individuals and sociodemographic circumstances. In particular, gender, age, migrant status and ethnicity were found to have strong associations with each cluster. Our results also demonstrated a clear association in MHPs with health behaviors both prior to, and during the pandemic. There were significant increases in MHPs between 2017/2019 and January 2021, with fluctuations coinciding with changes in public health mitigation policies. Assessments across the three clusters showed about 25.2%, 16.9%, and 0.7% increases in MHPs in the positive, moderate and high risk health behavior clusters, respectively.</jats:p></jats:sec><jats:sec><jats:title>Discussion</jats:title><jats:p>This study shows that pre-pandemic health behaviors were significantly associated with mental health before and during the pandemic. Holistic policy interventions and promotions targeting multiple health behaviors may be an effective strategy to improve mental health in the pandemic recovery period.</jats:p></jats:sec>

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: COVID-19, health behaviors, mental health, physical activity, non-communicable diseases, alcohol, diet, pandemic mitigation
Divisions: Faculty of Health and Life Sciences
Faculty of Health and Life Sciences > Institute of Population Health
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 16 Jan 2023 10:11
Last Modified: 22 Feb 2023 18:52
DOI: 10.3389/fpubh.2022.1064677
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