Two-thirds of Britons believe there is a link between obesity and severe symptoms of COVID-19, but few see it as a motivation to lose weight

Britons are among those most likely globally to say there is a link between obesity and more severe COVID-19 symptoms however, few say it is their key motivation to lose weight.

The author(s)

  • Dr. Pippa Bailey Head of Innovation
  • Susan Purcell Market Understanding
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In a new global Ipsos survey, across 30 countries, apart from those in Peru, Britons are most likely to recognise a link between obesity and more severe symptoms of COVID-19. Almost two-thirds (64%) think there is a link, compared to 15% who believe there is no tie. 

Nearly half (45%) of the British public believe losing weight would be an effective way to reduce the risk of more severe COVID-19 symptoms, globally the most likely to believe this. Regular exercise and giving up smoking are also seen as effective ways to avoid more serious illness by 35% and 31% respectively. Britons are least likely to see giving up alcohol as an effective prevention method against more serious COVID-19 symptoms (4%). 

Link between Covid symptoms and obesity

Despite such a high level of recognition, few see it as the main reason to lose weight. Among those who are currently trying to shed the pounds (36% of Britons), only 15% want to lose weight to reduce the risk of severe coronavirus symptoms. Over a third (36%) want to lose the weight they have gained during the pandemic, while 62% of those trying to lose weight say it is unrelated to the pandemic. 
For those looking to lose weight (43%), over a third (36%) want to lose weight that they have gained during the pandemic, while 62% of those trying to lose weight say it is unrelated to the pandemic.  

Despite the fact that a third (32%) of the British public have put on weight during the pandemic and the high awareness of the potential risks of getting more severe COVID-19 symptoms for people who are overweight, only 15% want to lose weight specifically to reduce their risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms, although two thirds (64%) say that it is important.

What is most likely to reduce the risk of more sever Covid-19 symptoms?

While a third of Britons have gained weight since the start of the pandemic, 31% globally have done the same. A quarter (24%) say they have lost weight. Three in 10 have done more exercise during the pandemic while 23% have seen the amount of time they spend exercising decrease. 

What have you done since the beginning of the pandemic?Only a small proportion of Britons have seen their alcohol consumption increase during the pandemic, 16% say they are drinking more alcohol. However, this is high compared to other countries with only Australia and the United States seeing bigger rises. While 2% have given up smoking since the outbreak, the same proportion have picked it up. 

Pippa Bailey, Head of Innovation at Ipsos MORI, said: 

Given the scale and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the proportion of people who have gained weight during this time alongside the public awareness of the risk that being overweight can have on the severity of the resultant symptoms, it is concerning that few see this is a key motivator to lose weight. The virus in turn, is not creating the ideal situation to lose weight as with many of us working from home and generally spending less time outside, there is a very real risk of one pandemic fuelling another.

Technical note:

  • The data for this research was collected via Ipsos Global Advisor from October 23rd to November 6th, 2020. In total 22,008 interviews were conducted between October 23rd and November 6th, 2020 among adult consumers.
  • The survey was conducted in 30 markets around the world via the Ipsos Online Panel system: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, Sweden, Turkey and the United States. 
  • The samples in some markets (e.g., Brazil, mainland China or India) are more urban, more educated, and/or more affluent than the general population. The survey results for such markets should be viewed as reflecting the views of the more “connected” segment of their population.
  • The data is weighted so each country’s sample composition best reflects the demographic profile of its adult population according to the most recent census data, and to give each country an equal weight in the total “global” sample.  
  • Where results do not sum to 100, this may be due to computer rounding, multiple responses or the exclusion of don't knows or not stated responses.
  • UK data for Q8 were subject to individual editing decisions

The author(s)

  • Dr. Pippa Bailey Head of Innovation
  • Susan Purcell Market Understanding

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