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Development of policy recommendations to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on physical activity and mental health in individuals with multimorbidity: a mixed method study.

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Principle Investigator – Professor Mari-Carmen Portillo (University of Southampton)


  • Dr Danielle Lambrick (University of Southampton) 
  • Dr James Faulkner (University of Winchester)
  • Dr Leire Ambrosio Gutierrez (University of Southampton) 
  • Associate Professor Beth Stuart (University of Southampton),
  • Professor Suzanne McDonough (Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland)
  • Professor Melitta McNarry (Swansea University)
  • Dr Jacqui Morris (University of Dundee)
  • Dr James Steele (Solent University)
  • Mr Eric Compton (PPI Representative)
  • Ms Katherine Baker (University Hospital Southampton)
  • Mr Jack Shakespeare (UK Active)
  • Dr Matthew Wade (UK Active)

Starts: January 2021

Ends: June 2022

Aim of the research: To understand the impact of COVID-19 and government restrictions on physical activity and mental health of people with long-term conditions, and propose recommendations to support and sustain their physical activity during and after COVID-19 or other pandemics. The findings of our study will inform stakeholder events across the UK including participants and policy-makers to draw action plans together.

Background to the research: People, including those with long-term conditions, were told to use physical distancing, self-isolation and/or shielding during COVID-19 to protect themselves and others. Government guidance on physical activity may or may not have explained to people how to be physically active and take part in exercise during COVID-19. Physical activity has a positive effect on physical and mental health, so understanding the impact of COVID-19 on physical activity behaviours (amount, type and intensity of physical activity, resources) of people with or without long-term conditions is important.

Design and methods used: First, we will gather information about government guidance on physical distancing, self-isolation and/or shielding, and online and offline resources available to support people with long-term conditions to be physically active during COVID-19. Secondly, we will send out an online quantitative data survey to people living with- and without long-term conditions to see what their physical activity and mental health was like during different stages of COVID-19 and what resources they used to stay active. Thirdly, we will interview 50 people (with- or without long-term conditions) to gain a deeper understanding of COVID-19 effects on physical activity and mental health, and understand participants' choice of resources to stay active and why some factors may have influenced their physical activity. Finally, findings will inform stakeholder engagement meetings with individuals with long-term conditions and local, regional, and national policy-makers, to co-produce recommendations that will help people living with long-term conditions remain active during and after COVID-19 and other pandemics.

Patient and Public Involvement: PPI will be an essential element in this project and will support the development of the survey and interview guide, the analysis and understanding of findings, and planning of stakeholder meetings and other resources. PPI involvement was planned with Katherine Baker (project PPI lead, PPI Officer, ARC Wessex) on 07/07/20. PPI representatives have reviewed the lay summary. The project team also includes a PPI representative.

Target audience and dissemination: Study findings will be sent to the House of Lords COVID-19 Committee. We will contact local health authorities such as County Council Health and Well-being boards, and Directors of Public Health. We will work with national patient and professional organisations that support people with long-term conditions to disseminate the findings to their communities. Study findings will be published in international journals and presented at conferences.