Hiber-Nation: Brits prepare for the unhealthiest season of the year

24 October 2016

Once clocks go back we watch more TV, socialise and exercise less and comfort eat more

  • 59% say their preferred way of spending a winter’s evening is to sit on the sofa catching-up on TV, with a drink and a snack;
  • 19% of UK adults say they put on weight over the winter;
  • 31% don’t think we should turn the clocks back/forwards.

Ahead of the clocks going back at the end of the month, new research* reveals the extent to which many plan to hibernate through the autumn and early winter months, making it the unhealthiest time of year.

British Summer Time** comes to an end on Sunday, 30 October at 2am when the clocks are turned back an hour to Greenwich Mean Time.  And according to the ‘Hiber-Nation’ survey commissioned by Gocompare.com Life Insurance, millions take the shorter daylight hours and colder winter weather as their cue to be more sedentary, less social and resort to comfort eating. 

The research looked at the habits of over 2,000 UK adults and found that many people significantly change their behaviour and the way they spend their free time once the clocks go back:

  • 46% admit to watching more television during the winter months;
  • 40% say they generally go out less during the winter months;
  • A third say they walk less in the winter;
  • 24% admit they are less sociable;
  • A fifth (21%) say they reduce the amount of exercise they do;
  • 20% said they have a tendency towards winter comfort eating;
  • 18% confessed to eating more snacks and junk food;
  • 8% said they tend to drink more alcohol

The research revealed that only 15% of people look forward to winter with just under a fifth (19%) saying their mood changes for the worse when winter comes, while 19% of adults are more inclined to put on weight over the winter and 11% say they are less productive at work.  31% of Brits wished the clocks wouldn’t change.

When asked about their perfect winter evening, the number one response was sitting on the sofa catching-up on TV or watching a box set, with a drink and a snack (59%).  Just over half (51%) said they would like to spend the time with their family rather than friends (34%).  Fewer favoured a night out – with less than a third (32%) preferring to go out for a meal, 21% said they like to go out to the cinema, theatre or concert while only 17% voted for a pub night.

Only 6% of those surveyed said they like to spend their winter evenings exercising.

Commenting on the research findings, Matt Sanders from Gocompare.com Life Insurance said, “Shorter daylight hours and cold weather can have a negative impact on our mood, energy levels and motivation during winter, so it’s unsurprising that many people feel like hibernating.  But, long periods of physical inactivity coupled with bad eating habits can have a detrimental impact on our health as well as our waistlines.

“As well as making us feel physically better, exercising more and generally leading a healthier lifestyle can have a positive impact on our finances.  The cost of life insurance is based not only on the sum insured and length of the policy, but on your age, state of health and lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise.  So, for example, if you are significantly overweight your premiums may be higher to reflect the associated health implications.”

Read Gocompare.com's guide for more information on how a healthy lifestyle can cut the cost of life insurance, health insurance and/or income protection premiums.

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Notes to editors:

*On 14 October 2016,Bilendi conducted an online survey among 2,004 randomly selected British adults who are Maximiles UK panelists who are homeowners.  The margin of error-which measures sampling variability-is +/- 2.2%. The results have been statistically weighted according to the most current education, age, gender and regional data to ensure samples representative of the entire adult population of United Kingdom. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.

** In the UK the clocks go forward 1 hour at 1am on the last Sunday in March, and back 1 hour at 2am on the last Sunday in October. The period when the clocks are 1 hour ahead is called British Summer Time when there's more daylight in the evenings and less in the mornings. When the clocks go back in the Autumn the UK is on Greenwich Mean Time.