Using time-use diaries to track changing behavior across successive stages of COVID-19 social restrictions

Oriel Sullivan, Jonathan Gershuny, Almudena Sevilla, Francesca Foliano, Margarita Vega-Rapun, Juana Lamote de Grignon, Teresa Harms, Pierre Walthéry

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


How did people change their behavior over the different phases of the UK COVID-19 restrictions, and how did these changes affect their risk of being exposed to infection? Time-use diary surveys are unique in providing a complete chronicle of daily behavior: 24-h continuous records of the populations' activities, their social context, and their location. We present results from four such surveys, collected in real time from representative UK samples, both before and at three points over the course of the current pandemic. Comparing across the four waves, we find evidence of substantial changes in the UK population's behavior relating to activities, locations, and social context. We assign different levels of risk to combinations of activities, locations, and copresence to compare risk-related behavior across successive “lockdowns.” We find evidence that during the second lockdown (November 2020), there was an increase in high-risk behaviors relative to the first (starting March 2020). This increase is shown to be associated with more paid work time in the workplace. At a time when capacity is still limited both in respect of immunization and track-trace technology, governments must continue to rely on changes in people's daily behaviors to contain the spread of COVID-19 and similar viruses. Time-use diary information of this type, collected in real time across the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, can provide policy makers with information to assess and quantify changes in daily behaviors and the impact they are likely to have on overall behavioral-associated risks.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2101724118
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number35
StatePublished - 31 Aug 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Behavioral responses to COVID-19
  • Time-use diary survey
  • UK COVID-19 regulations changes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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