17 November 2021, 14:44

Half of over 50s become more health conscious following the Covid-19 pandemic

  • Almost half of people over 50 say the Covid-19 pandemic has made them increase their focus on their health and wellbeing
  • More than a third (36%) have already made changes to improve their health as a result
  • The acceleration of digitalisation over the last eighteen months means demand for health technology has increased among over 50s
  • New report from Saga comes as the business rebrands to celebrate ‘Generation Experience’ and the positives associated with growing older – with the average Saga customer feeling 14 years younger than they are

The Covid-19 pandemic has been a catalyst for positive change among the UK’s over 50s, leading to an increased focus on their health and the formation of new, positive behaviours.

According to a new Saga report The Experience of Health for People Over 50 almost half (47%)¹ of over 50s say the pandemic has made them revaluate their health – rising to 57% of those who have lost a friend or family member to the virus.

The research suggests people over 50 are translating this renewed attention on their health into action, with more than a third (36%) forming new habits that they intend to maintain into the longer-term – with independence (51%), preventing illness (45%) and being fit and well for family (43%) the most common motivations.

These habits include getting more exercise, eating better and socialising more. A similar proportion also plan to continue drinking less alcohol and working less where possible, in efforts to preserve their health.

Graph 1: Proportion of people who are pursuing healthier habits or will do so in the future

Graph 1

Source: Saga, November 2021

More than one in ten (13%) say they have already seen an improvement in their physical health.

Kevin McMullan, Head of Product, Saga Health Insurance commented: “The events of the last eighteen months have shone a light on our health like never before, causing much reflection and revaluation about our lifestyle choices. For those over 50 in particular, who have generally felt the risks of Covid-19 most strongly, it has been a catalyst for positive change, with a large proportion of people now moving more and eating better in efforts to remain healthy and ensure they continue enjoying life’s experiences. Extended periods of lockdowns have also contributed to a much stronger zest for life among this age group now restrictions have eased.

“Our research suggests that a renewed interest in our wellbeing could be a lasting consequence of Covid-19 – potentially hugely significant in relieving pressure on the NHS, particularly when combined with private services and new technology.”

Experienced, not old

The research supports the core insight that drove Saga’s recent rebrand: that over-50s want to be thought of as experienced, not old, and want to live life to the full. According to separate Saga data, on average its customers feel 14 years younger than they are, and 91% want to experience new things and enjoy an active, healthy lifestyle.

Cost remains a barrier on health, but a growing group plan to spend more

Despite clear intentions to take control of health and make positive changes, nearly a third (29%) believe the financial cost of staying healthy is too high. A similar proportion (27%) believe the best ways and methods to keep healthy are the most expensive.

Currently, over-50s spend 7% of their disposable income on keeping healthy, yet 14% now plan to increase this over the next 5 and 10 years. When considering population growth – the number of people aged 65 and over is expected to reach 20.4 million by 2066² – this equates to significant long-term spending and investment in health.

Increasing demand for health technology

Lockdown measures encouraged many people over 50 to increase their use and comfort with digital technology. Nearly half (44%) would now be happy to consider a medical appointment with a GP over a video call. A third (34%) would actively prefer to do so.

A significant proportion are also interested in using technology to a greater extent to help improve or monitor physical and mental health, with a similar number who say they are happy to pay for these services.

The likelihood of how open a person is to more technology-led health support in the future decreases with age, with those aged between 50 to 74 years old most likely to want technology to play a greater role. We could expect though that this group will continue to desire tech-based health once they turn 75 as this behaviour becomes ingrained.

Kevin McMullan, Head of Product, Saga Health Insurance commented: “The pandemic has accelerated the take-up of digital technology across many aspects of our lives, from shopping to socialising. More of us than ever are now comfortable – and even prefer – using online services.

“Post-Covid, harnessing this behavioural change, as well as the desire to take control of our health, will be at the heart of catering for people’s wellbeing at all stages of their lives. This includes new services and technology designed to incentivise good health.”



Jemma Savage

Notes to editors


Notes to editors

¹Research is based on nationally representative sample of 2,000 people aged 50 or over, conducted by Opinium in June 2021.

²ONS: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/ageing/articles/livinglongerhowourpopulationischangingandwhyitmatters/2018-08-13