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The Impact of Time-Use on Mental Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The Impact of Time-Use on Mental Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic


Today, we're going to delve into an intriguing study that explores the relationship between time-use and mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. This research, conducted in the UK, analyzed the behaviors and activities of over 55,000 adults over an 11-week lockdown period. Let's break it down and see what we can learn from it.

Unraveling the Impact of Time-Use

The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly brought about significant changes in our daily lives. With restrictions in place, people had to adapt to spending more time at home and altering their routines. This study aimed to understand how these changes in time-use affected mental health and wellbeing.

The researchers found that the time spent on various activities was associated with changes in mental health. For instance, engaging in outdoor activities like gardening and exercising predicted subsequent improvements in mental health and wellbeing. On the other hand, increased time spent following news about COVID-19 was linked to declines in mental health and wellbeing.

The Psychology of Isolation

The psychological impact of isolation and stay-at-home orders during epidemics has been a serious cause for concern. Previous studies have highlighted the negative effects of enforced isolation, including increases in stress, anxiety, and insomnia. However, this study sought to go beyond the broad impact of "staying at home" and investigate how specific behaviors within the home might have influenced mental health differently.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, individuals had to reallocate their time and adjust to new circumstances. Some continued working from home, while others faced job loss or increased childcare responsibilities. Leisure activities were curtailed, and social interactions in public spaces were prohibited. These changes in behaviors had implications for mental health, as evidenced by the rise in searches related to boredom, loneliness, worry, and sadness during the early weeks of lockdown.

Time-Use and Mental Health

The relationship between time-use and mental health has been a subject of interest in psychological research. Certain activities have been suggested to have protective effects on mental health, such as engaging in physical activity, taking up hobbies, and participating in leisure activities. Conversely, excessive sedentary screen time and engagement with stressful news have been associated with negative impacts on mental health.

This study aimed to shed light on the association between daily activities and mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. It sought to understand whether activities that are typically beneficial for mental health had similar effects during the pandemic. The findings have significant implications for formulating guidelines to support individuals staying at home due to quarantine or potential future pandemics.

Dissecting Mental Health

The study focused on three different outcomes related to mental health: anxiety, depression, and life satisfaction. Anxiety combines negative mood states with physiological hyperarousal, while depression combines negative mood states with anhedonia (loss of pleasure). Life satisfaction, on the other hand, reflects an individual's overall attitude towards life.

Understanding the nuanced associations between time-use and these aspects of mental health is crucial. The study aimed to disentangle the differential impacts of various activities on mental health and wellbeing. By employing dynamic panel methods, the researchers explored concurrent changes in behaviors and mental health, as well as the temporal prediction of changes in mental health, while accounting for the possibility of reverse causality.

So, there you have it! This study provides valuable insights into how our daily activities during the COVID-19 pandemic have influenced our mental health and wellbeing. It highlights the importance of maintaining a balance in our time-use, especially during periods of prolonged isolation. Engaging in outdoor activities and limiting exposure to distressing news can play a significant role in preserving our mental health.

Stay tuned for more fascinating insights, and remember to take care of your mental wellbeing, especially during challenging times.

Citation: Feifei Bu et al., “Time-Use and Mental Health during the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Panel Analysis of 55,204 Adults Followed across 11 Weeks of Lockdown in the UK,” August 21, 2020,


  • Mental Health: Refers to a person's emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how individuals think, feel, and act.

  • Isolation: Being separated from others, often due to quarantine or stay-at-home orders.

  • Sedentary: Involving little physical activity or movement.

  • Dynamic Panel Methods: Statistical techniques used to analyze data that captures the dynamics of change over time.

  • Anxiety: Feelings of worry, nervousness, or unease, often about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.

  • Depression: A mental health disorder characterized by persistently low mood and a loss of interest or pleasure in activities.