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Health Habits during the Lockdown

July 22, 2020

Last May, Xperienz along with 15 other agencies from the global network of user research companies UX Fellows conducted an intercultural study in 15 different countries about health and wellbeing during the lockdown caused by the current pandemic situation. 

In Portugal, Xperienz conducted 8 interviews through Zoom, having been conducted a total of 128 remote interviews with participants from 15 different countries, including Germany, Italy, Portugal, Russia, Finland, Mexico, USA, Singapore, France, Spain, UK, Poland, Turkey, Colombia and Australia. 

The goal 

The purpose of this investigation was to explore if the motivations for maintaining and optimising physical and mental health and personal wellbeing differ between countries and cultures, as well as which impact the Coronavirus pandemic and the associated restrictions had on people’s health behaviour. 

The results 

Participants identified a similar holistic definition of health, regardless of which country they live in, which comprises both mental and physical health. 

"Health is a mix of everything. It's not just a checkup, it deals with your way of life, the balance you find between professional and private life, your physical and your mental health" Bianca (36), IT

The pandemic related restrictions had both positive and negative effects on health and wellbeing. While in countries like France, Italy, Spain and UK, social distancing and remote work made people gain more free time and have less stress than usual, having also more time to cook, workout and find new hobbies, for other participants, specially in the USA and Russia, the lockdown caused more stress and uncertainty. These say they had more difficulty disconnecting from work and felt overwhelmed by the double burden of managing domestic and professional responsibilities.

As a result of gyms being closed, restrictions in the use of workout equipments in public parks, the prohibition of organised sports and physical activities in groups, people were forced to find new ways and places to stay active. Starting to practice physical exercise at home was a new experience for many people. What caused more frustration was the limitation of the kind of sport they could practice, having to train alone and the lack of equipment and space to practice sports at home.

The quality of sleep was also affected by pandemic related restrictions. While some participants reported they started sleeping more because they didn’t have to waste time commuting to work, others mentioned sleeping was more problematic due to the disruption in their normal patterns and routines. That sleeping disruption was worst due to the feeling of anxiety induced by pandemic related news, particularly in countries like Spain, Mexico and Colombia. 

For most people, nutrition improved during the lockdown. Having more time to plan and prepare meals at home, being more conscious of the food they bought in more limited grocery store trips and eating out less made them have more control over what they ate, typically leading to better food related choices. 

Technology can play a significant role in optimising health. Participants from all countries use smartwatches or fitness trackers to collect data while they are practicing sports like running, cycling and swimming, or for more passive activities like step counting. In every country people also use apps specifically designed for activities like running, cycling, yoga or fitness workouts.

The interview also explored the role of digital assistants in achieving and maintaining health goals. Participants expressed a preference for a technology that was able to view health holistically, rather than focus on a single aspect such as physical activity. 

Participants were also questioned about their opinion regarding Covid-19 contact tracing apps. Willingness to use a COVID-19 contact tracing app differed between countries. Although the majority is in favor, its usage would depend on the trust in authorities and clear comprehension of which personal data would be collected, how and who would have access to it. Participants in Finland, Italy, USA and Colombia showed a strong support for such an app. 

The conclusions

The study demonstrated that whilst technological health support, like for example fitness trackers and smartwatches, is already adopted around the world, the pandemic situation seems to have made this ground even more fertile. Technology plays an important role in health optimisation and was fundamental for most participants to keep active during the lockdown. 

The full study is available for download on the UX Fellows website at

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