Wider Impacts of COVID-19 on Health (WICH) monitoring tool

 

Feedback Questionnaire

The WICH tool was first published on 16 July 2020. Since then, we have continually developed the tool to include additional metrics and make it easier to use. We would very much like to gather feedback from users of the tool to evaluate its reach, usefulness and impact and understand whether there are further improvements we could make.

We would appreciate it if you would complete this short questionnaire to help us in our evaluation. The questionnaire should take no more than 5 minutes to complete.

 

The Wider Impacts of COVID-19 on Health (WICH) monitoring tool is designed to allow users to explore the indirect effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the population's health and wellbeing. This tool presents a range of health and wellbeing metrics in interactive plots that can be broken down to show differences between groups - for example, you can explore grocery purchasing habits by Region or Social Class.

This resource will be updated weekly with:

  • New time point data for existing metrics where available and appropriate.
  • New metrics covering relevant themes where data become available.

A companion summary document has been included in this tool and is available to read in the Summary section here.

Measures

Public Health England (PHE) Health Intelligence teams have collated a range of metrics and grouped them into eight categories.

Below is a table of metrics - click the rows to expand groups and subgroups and click the Link column to view the relevant section of the tool. You can search through indicators using the search bar on the right.

 

What's new?

This resource was updated on 18/02/2021. A list of new and updated indicators can be accessed here.

The following metrics have been updated with more recent timepoints:

  • Access to care
    • Access to care
    • Hospital admissions - Acute coronary syndrome, stroke
  • Grocery purchasing and food usage
    • Grocery purchasing
  • Mental health and wellbeing
    • Mental health
  • Social determinants of health
    • Mobility

Revisions to metrics are recorded in the change log, available to download as an xlsx file here.

On the 5 November, we published a report which provides an in-depth commentary on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on grocery shopping behaviours during March to June 2020 available here.

Feedback

We are interested in your feedback on the tool. If you have any comments or suggested changes, please email EandS-Enquiries@phe.gov.uk

Wider Impacts of COVID-19 on Health (WICH) summary, 18 February 2021

This Public Health England (PHE) monitoring tool looks at the wider impacts of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on population health. This report briefly highlights the main findings.

This resource will be updated weekly with new time point data for existing metrics and new metrics covering relevant themes where data become available. In some cases, a metric is from a single time point data collection and therefore figures will remain unchanged week on week. This will be continually reviewed, and the resource will be updated as appropriate for relevance and timeliness.

Overview

Areas of daily life in England have all seen some noticeable changes since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The beginning of the first national lockdown in England was 23 March. Easing of lockdown began on 10 May. At this time, people who could not work from home were encouraged to return, avoiding public transport where possible, and were allowed to take unlimited outdoor exercise.

Further easing took place in the first half of June, allowing up to 6 people to meet outdoors, and outdoor sports amenities and outdoor non-food markets to open. More significant lifting of restrictions took place on 15 June. This permitted reopening of retail shops and some other public-facing businesses. On 4 July pubs, restaurants, hotels and hairdressers were permitted to open with the implementation of social distancing measures.

Since the easing of national restrictions, a series of local measures have been introduced. On 14 October the government introduced a 3-tier system and those areas in the highest tier were subject to the tightest restrictions. This was followed by a second national lockdown on 5 November until 2 December when the 3-tier system was reinstated. A Tier 4 was implemented for areas in London, East and the South East of England on 20 December and was extended to a number of other areas on 26 December. A third national lockdown came into effect on the 6 January 2021 and is expected to continue to at least mid-February.

Mental health and wellbeing

Self-reported mental health and wellbeing worsened during the pandemic. Adults experienced high anxiety levels and low happiness levels in the week immediately preceding the first national lockdown and the 2 following weeks. Prevalence for both indicators was more than double the average for 2019. Prevalence for both these has since declined but has generally remained above 2019 levels up to the week of the 4 Oct 2020. Data from 23 March 2020 to 1 February 2021 show that trends in a range of other mental health metrics such as loneliness, abuse, self-harm and suicide and major stress have fluctuated over the course of the pandemic. Further detail on this topic is available in the COVID-19: mental health and wellbeing surveillance report.

Dementia

Numbers of people with dementia and Alzheimer’s have fallen during the pandemic, partly due to patients not accessing services where assessment and diagnosis would take place. Prevalence of these diseases in adults aged 65 and over was lower in the months from April to December 2020 than in the averages of the same months from 2017 to 2019. The estimated diagnosis rate in adults aged 65 and over was also lower from April to December in 2020 than in 2019 and referral to a memory clinic was lower in the months from April to December 2020 than in the same months in 2018 to 2019.

Community support

In general, data up to 2 August show that people have felt supported during the pandemic. Similarly, the majority of people felt that people were helping others more than before. These patterns were seen across income, age, sex, and ethnic groups.

Homeschooling

From 23 March 2020 until the start of the 2020 autumn term, most schools in England were closed to children other than those with parents who were keyworkers or who were classed as vulnerable. In the 4-week period up to 7 June, around 70% of parents reported homeschooling their children.

Schools remained open during the second national lockdown and for the remainder of the term but were closed again at the start of the third national lockdown in January 2021.

Travel, access to outdoor space and time spent on activities

Mobility patterns changed visibly during the pandemic. The initial message to ‘stay at home’ during the first national lockdown showed high levels of compliance and all transport use saw a steep decline in the following 2 weeks.

Following the easing of restrictions, public transport use steadily increased whilst remaining below pre-pandemic levels. There was a slight decline in use of National Rail services from the end of September to the end of October, perhaps reflecting the announcement on 23 September for people to work from home if they could and the introduction of local lockdowns. This was followed by a steep decline in all public transport use from the 5 November, the beginning of the second national lockdown. This rose gradually from the end of November leading up to Christmas and then declined steeply over the Christmas Bank Holiday period. Public transport use has remained steady through the third national lockdown, at a lower level than seen in the second national lockdown, but a higher level than during the first national lockdown.

After an initial decline following the first national lockdown, trips in light goods vehicles, heavy goods vehicles and cars gradually increased and were back to normal levels from July. Trips in cars and light goods vehicles declined steeply again following the second national lockdown at the beginning of November and gradually increased from the end of November leading up to Christmas and then declined steeply over the Christmas Bank Holiday period. During the third national lockdown, these indicators showed gradual increases, but were consistently at a lower level than seen in the second national lockdown, but a higher level than during the first national lockdown.

Visits to parks, whilst down at first, were above pre-pandemic levels from 25 May until 30 September, perhaps reflecting the warmer summer and early autumn weather.

Trips in residential areas have been consistently above pre-pandemic levels. Trips to retail and recreation areas, and workplaces, had been gradually increasing between mid-June and the end of August when the general re-opening of English retail shops and public-facing businesses was announced. Trips to retail and recreational areas decreased at the beginning of September and remained consistent throughout October. They have declined steeply again after the beginning of the second national lockdown from 5 November. There was an increase in the first week of December which remained in the weeks preceding Christmas, followed by a decline in the week before New Year. This may have been due to the holidays but may also have been due to more areas being moved into Tier 4.

Access to green space and outdoor space is important for health and wellbeing. Those living in the London region have the lowest level of access to private outdoor space but also the shortest distance to travel to access public green spaces. Those in higher income groups have greater access to private garden space as do those from a White ethnic background and those in age bands 45 years and over.

Restrictions in place during lockdown and subsequently have had an impact on how people were able to use their time. Comparisons with data from 2014 to 2015 show that during March and April 2020 people were spending less time travelling, studying, doing housework and on personal care and more time sleeping and resting, entertaining and socialising, gardening and DIY, and working from home.

Air quality

Air quality data is available for London, Manchester and Birmingham. Improvements in air quality since the introduction of initial lockdown in March are mainly due to reductions in the concentration of the nitrogen oxide (NO2) in the environment. Data for NO2 up to the end of November show that these values are generally lower than the same period in 2019.

Grocery purchasing and food usage

The volume of grocery purchases rose sharply just before the first lockdown on 23 March 2020 and volume sales remained higher up to and including the week ending 7 February 2021 than at the same point in the previous year. Since the first lockdown began and up to the week ending 7 February 2021, shoppers have made fewer trips than in the same period last year but have been buying more per trip. There was an increase in grocery purchases compared to the same period in the previous year leading up to and during the second national lockdown that began on the 5 November but not to the same level seen in March. A similar pattern also looks to be emerging for the current third national lockdown although the volume of grocery purchases are below those seen for the second national lockdown at the moment. These patterns are seen across all socioeconomic groups.

Changes in food use behaviours were most visible among the younger age groups, households with children and those who were self-isolating. About half of 16- to 34-year-olds changed their food use patterns between April and June while the habits of most of the older age groups remained consistent. There was a shift towards cooking more from scratch, eating together with the family and eating healthy meals, but also a marked increase in snacking, especially in April and May.

A more detailed analysis of the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on grocery shopping behaviours was published on 5 November.

Alcohol

Alcohol intake across the population as a whole remained about the same during the first national lockdown, with almost half reporting that they had neither increased nor decreased their drinking, and this pattern continued as restrictions were eased. Data up to 26 September 2020 show that those aged 18 to 34 were more likely to report consuming less alcohol than before, during all phases of social restrictions, and those aged 35 to 54 were more likely to report an increase. There was an increase in the proportion of ‘increasing and higher risk’ drinkers in April 2020. Since then, rates have been declining but are still consistently higher compared with 2019. Alcohol purchasing rose sharply just prior to the first national lockdown and has remained higher up to 27 December 2020 than in the same weeks in 2019. This pattern is observed across all life stages and social classes. There was an increase in alcohol purchasing in the 2 weeks preceding the start of the second national lockdown which began on 5 November and a further increase in the last two weeks of November.

Rates of emergency hospital admissions for all alcohol-specific conditions in England were lower in March, April and May 2020 than in the same months at baseline (rates for 2018 and 2019 combined). They then increased above baseline levels for June, July and August 2020 and then fell to be similar to the baseline in September. This pattern was seen for men and women.

Mortality rates for alcohol-specific conditions were higher for all months from May to November 2020 than in the same months at baseline (rates for 2018 and 2019 combined). For both sexes, rates were increased in the second and third quarters of the year (April to June 2020 and July to September 2020 respectively) compared to the equivalent quarters at baseline (2018 and 2019 combined). These trends were also observed for alcoholic liver disease, which accounts for most alcohol-related deaths, while the trend was less clear for other alcohol-specific causes. Regional differences are seen for alcohol related deaths, four regions had increased rates in the second quarter of 2020 compared to baseline. Five regions had increased rates in the third quarter of 2020 compared to baseline.

Smoking

Smoking prevalence in the 4-week period ending 5 July was lower than the 2019 baseline. Smoking prevalence for people aged 16 to 24 more than halved in the same 4 week period. There has been an increase in the number of people attempting to quit smoking during the pandemic with two-fifths of smokers attempting to quit in the 3 months up to September 2020. Over-the-counter nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) and e-cigarettes remain the most commonly used aids to quitting. However, during the pandemic there has been a reduction in their use and a corresponding increase in people attempting to quit unaided.

Gambling

The proportion of adults reporting engaging in and spending money on all types of gambling, including betting and the lottery, decreased during the first national lockdown compared with before. This was seen across all age groups and both sexes. Gambling behaviour then increased once sports events and bookmakers reopened and by the start of the second national lockdown rates had returned to the levels seen before the first and have remained similar since.

Physical activity

In April and May, about a third of adults reported doing at least 30 minutes of physical activity on 5 or more days in the previous week. Since then, and up to the 3 August, there has been a decrease to slightly over a quarter of adults reporting this level of physical activity.

Around a third of adults reported doing more physical activity than usual during the lockdown period between 3 April and 11 May 2020, but over a third said they were doing less. Similarly, just under a third of parents reported that their children were doing more physical activity compared with before the initial lockdown, although just over a third said they were doing less.

Access to care and hospital admissions

During the pandemic, there has been concern that people are not accessing healthcare for non-Covid related health issues. Survey data collected during the period 6 July 2020 to 26 January 2021 show that of those people reporting that they had a worsening health condition in the preceding 7 days, around half reported that they had not sought advice for their condition. The most common reason for not doing so was to avoid putting pressure on the NHS.

There was a reduction in monthly elective and emergency hospital admissions in the period April to June 2020 in England compared with the monthly average for April to June in 2018 and 2019 combined. This pattern was observed in men and women, and across all age groups, ethnic groups and deprivation deciles.

In children and young people, rates of hospital admissions from April to September 2020 for dental caries, asthma, diabetes, epilepsy, gastroenteritis, lower respiratory tract infections and following accidents were generally below the average rates in 2018 and 2019 for equivalent months.

Rates of admission following self-harm and assault were generally below the average for 2018 and 2019 equivalent months for April to June 2020 but then rose in the second quarter to similar or slightly above this baseline level.

In older adults aged 65 and over, rates of hospital admissions for hip fractures from April to September 2020 were similar to in the average rates for 2018 and 2019 for equivalent months. This pattern was broadly consistent across age groups, sex, deprivation, ethnic groups and regions. Rates of hospital admissions due to injuries caused by falls from April to June 2020 were below the 2018 and 2019 baseline level but rose to similar levels from July to September 2020.

Cardiovascular disease

During the pandemic, there has been a reduction in the number of emergency admissions to hospital with cardiovascular related conditions. Weekly admissions for acute coronary syndromes (including heart attacks) and stroke were lower during the first national lockdown compared with the 2018 to 2019 average. From mid-June until 25 August, rates of admissions were similar to that of the 2018 to 2019 average. The pattern was seen in both men and women. Reduced admissions during this period may result in increased out-of-hospital deaths, long-term complications and missed opportunities to provide secondary prevention treatment to patients.

Community Delivered Healthcare

Community delivered healthcare includes all health care related activities that are carried out in community settings such as health centres or in a patient’s own home. Rates of community delivered healthcare activity for the period April to June 2020 are lower compared with the same month in 2019. This trend is seen across all age groups but are most marked in the groups that would usually have the most contact with community delivered healthcare, such as children and some older adults.

Impact on employment and businesses

The rate of people per 1,000 employees who had been made redundant or took voluntary redundancy more than tripled from the quarter March to May 2020 to September to November 2020. The rate for September to November 2020 is also more than triple that of the same quarter in 2019. The proportion of those claiming unemployment benefits more than doubled between March and May and has remained at a similar level since then up to the latest available data for December. These figures may not yet reflect the true impact of the pandemic.

Lockdown meant significant impacts on businesses in terms of turnover and impact on the workforce. In the 2-week period ending 31 May just over a fifth of the UK workforce was on furlough and just under a quarter of enterprises across all industries had experienced a decrease in turnover of more than 50%. Data for the period ending 1 November shows that the proportion of the UK workforce on furlough leave across all industries has decreased to under a tenth, as the initial lockdown restrictions were gradually relaxed and more businesses were able to reopen.

At the end of October 2020 the take-up rate of the furlough scheme was highest in those aged under 18 and those aged 65 or over, of whom just over a tenth of all eligible employees were on furlough leave, and lowest in those aged 25 to 44 and those aged 45 to 54 of whom 7.5% were on furlough leave. At the end of May 2020, the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) take-up rate was 70%. This dropped to 60% by the end of August, before returning to 69% by the end of October.

Pregnancy and birth

Data shows that, compared with a monthly average baseline of combined data from April 2016 to March 2019, there was a decrease in the percentage of premature birth deliveries in England in April and May 2020, but it was similar to baseline in June, July and August. There were no statistically significant differences in other outcomes compared with baseline, such as the percentage of deliveries with low or very low birthweight in England or the percentage of deliveries which included one or more stillbirths.

The rate of maternity bookings appointments was significantly higher in April 2020 compared with the 2019 baseline (5.6 compared with 5.2 per 100,000 women). The rate was lower than the baseline in May and about the same in June and July.

Reproductive health

The rate of GP prescribed long acting reversible contraception (LARC) was significantly lower at the beginning of the first national lockdown than the monthly average from 2017/18 to 2019/20. Rates gradually increased from May to September but remain below this baseline nationally and in most regions.

Crime

There was a reduction in many types of police-recorded crime during the first national lockdown, March 2020 to May 2020, compared with the same months in 2019. An exception to this pattern was drug offences, where levels increased, the rate in May 2020 was over two-fifths higher than in May 2019.

During the period April to May, when asked about their perception of national crime and crime in their local area ‘since the virus outbreak’, over half perceived that national crime had gone down, whereas just under a half perceived that there had been no change in levels of crime in their local area.

About 8 in 10 adults reported that there had been no change in how much they worried about crime in general since the virus outbreak.

Around a fifth of adults perceived anti-social behaviour levels in their local area to have decreased during the pandemic period and a similar proportion reported experiencing or witnessing anti-social behaviour in the last 3 months. Over half of parents reported that their child aged 10- to 15-years-old was spending 5 or more hours online, with more than 1 in 10 children spending 9 or 10 hours online during May and June 2020. Over a tenth of parents reported that their child had encountered one or more negative online experiences in the last month.

Life Expectancy

Life expectancy is a key summary measure of mortality in the population. It is an estimate of the average number of years a newborn baby would live if he or she experienced the age-specific mortality rates of the area for the time period throughout his or her life. The figures reflect current mortality rates and are not the number of years a baby born in the area could actually expect to live, because the mortality rates will change in the future. The life expectancy estimates are therefore an alternative way of presenting mortality rates, in order to show the impact of COVID-19 on levels of mortality during the first half of this year.

The data show that in the first 6 months of 2020, life expectancy for both sexes in England was lower than in the same period in each of the previous 5 years. All English regions saw decreases in life expectancy between the first 6 months of 2019 and 2020, with the greatest decreases in London.

Data presented in the tool also show inequalities in life expectancy in England, and the English regions, for the first six months of 2020, and the first six months of the previous five years. Figures for the whole year up to 2019 are also shown for comparison. Decreases in life expectancy were observed across all deprivation deciles in England in the first 6 months of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. Inequality in life expectancy for England increased for both males and females. At regional level, there was variation in the trend in inequality over this time period. In London, there was a significant widening of inequality for both males and females. There was also a significant widening of inequality for females in West Midlands.

How to use this Tool

Use the tabs at the top of the screen to move between the different metric groups.

Each tab provides a visualisation of the selected metric by different breakdowns and the trends over time for the metrics available.

  1. Select the metric to display in the ‘Indicator’ drop down. The dashboard will populate with the selected data.
  2. Select the breakdown you would like to display from the ‘Breakdown’ drop down.
  3. Navigate between viewing charts, data tables and metadata using the tabs in each theme.
  4. To see a single variable on a chart click on the variable name in the legend.
  5. View data from previous releases using the 'Release Date' drop down.

Grocery purchasing and food usage

Social determinants of health

Mental health and wellbeing

Behavioural risk factors

Access to care

Air quality

Pregnancy and birth

Life expectancy