In June 2020, Public Health Scotland ran an online survey of people who had been advised to ‘shield’. Today, we have published the results of the survey. It suggests that people who were advised to shield have mostly followed this advice – but that the shielding experience has been difficult, in particular for socio-economically vulnerable groups.

Shielding was introduced by the Scottish Government in mid-March 2020 to protect people at the highest risk of COVID-19. The shielding guidance advised them to minimise their interaction with others. Over 12,000 people participated in the survey.

More than four in ten (41%) said they had followed all shielding guidance. Only 2% had had visitors (against shielding guidance), a third (33%) had left their home (against shielding guidance), and of those who had left their home (for any reason), more than half (52%) had done so less than once per week.

Overall, large proportions of people who responded reported negative impacts: 87% reported a negative impact on their quality of life, 85% reported a negative impact on how much physical activity they do and 72% reported a negative impact on their mental health.

The results also suggest that socio-economically vulnerable groups may have been affected more by the shielding experience.

More than seven in ten (71%) of all survey respondents felt that they were coping okay with shielding – but this dropped to less than half (48%) among those most vulnerable financially. Fewer than one in ten (7%) of all respondents were struggling to access food that met their needs – but this increased to 26% among those financially most vulnerable.

Dr Diane Stockton, COVID19 Social and System Recovery Lead, Public Health Scotland said:

“Shielding asked a lot of people – people were essentially asked to minimise their interaction with others, even others in their own household. There were deviations from the guidance, but it appears that, by and large, people who were asked to, have tried to follow the guidance.

“It is important to remember that shielding was introduced with a clear intention to protect the most vulnerable and save lives. Any negative impact of shielding needs to be considered against that backdrop. It is also difficult to disentangle the negative impacts of shielding from the negative impacts of other COVID-19 restrictions, such as the population-wide lockdown.

That being said, our survey suggests that shielding has been difficult, in particular for socio-economically vulnerable groups. Understanding these impacts is helpful, not just in terms of how we support people in the midst of any restrictions, but also in terms of who might benefit the most from help after them.”

The Public Health Scotland shielding evaluation is ongoing. Publication of the final evaluation report is anticipated in early 2021.

View the COVID-19 Shielding Impact and Experience Survey (Scotland) report




Last updated: 06 October 2022