Pandemic decreases self-esteem

7 July 2021

Just over a quarter of people in the East Midlands report decrease in self-esteem compared with pre-pandemic levels.

Just over a quarter (26%) of people living in the East Midlands say their self-esteem has decreased[i] compared with pre-pandemic levels. In contrast over a fifth (22%) say their self-esteem has increased[ii], which was also the same across the UK as a whole. In London almost a third (31%) reported an increase in self-esteem levels. The Welsh appear to be struggling with self-esteem the most – 31% reported a decrease and just 17% reported an increase.

This is according to new report ‘The Way We Are Now 2021’, released by leading relationships charity Relate and relationship experts eHarmony during Relationships Week (5-11 July). The report combines insights from counsellor focus groups and consumer polling, plus website and service data. It considers how single people and couples have reacted to lockdown easing and identifies key attitude and behaviour changes, as well as offering tips from counsellors for building healthy relationships with yourself and others.

Relationships Week logoThe research found that adults across the UK recognise the importance of good self-esteem with almost two thirds (64%) of adults surveyed agreeing [iii] that self-esteem is linked to success in a romantic relationship – this dropped to 58% of those living in the East Midlands. That’s why Relate Northamptonshire is using Relationships Week to encourage people to work on arguably the most important relationship of all: the one with themselves.

Are you one of the 25% who has been struggling with your self-esteem? We’d love to help you. Book counselling with us today or find out how individual counselling works.


Relate Counsellor Holly Roberts said the pandemic appears to have contributed to a split in self-esteem levels: “A positive and balanced view of yourself is critical to overall wellbeing and building strong relationships of all kinds. It’s great that just over a fifth of people in the East Midlands feel their self-esteem has increased but for others it has taken a big hit. As we focus on ‘getting back out there’ don’t forget to take some time to also focus on yourself. Learning to love yourself can mean different things to different people – it might be joining a face-to-face exercise class now that’s possible again, saying no to a social engagement, or getting some support such as counselling.”

Across the whole of the UK, the top reasons for self-esteem increasing compared to pre the Covid-19 pandemic were paying more attention to physical health (30%), realising how strong they are for getting through a pandemic (24%) and taking up a new hobby (24%).  For those who said their self-esteem decreased during the pandemic, this was driven by inability to socialise with friends and family (48%), money worries (42%) and not prioritising physical health (40%). Comparison with others on social media (23%) was another key factor. Low self-esteem is currently more prevalent among women than men, with 32% of women saying their self-esteem decreased, compared to pre Covid-19 pandemic, whereas only 18% of men said the same.

“A positive and balanced view of yourself is critical to overall wellbeing.”

These findings are supported by Relate’s own website data which shows their page on low self-esteem has recently seen a 125% increase in page views, suggesting people are keen to work on their self-esteem now we are emerging from lockdown[iv].

Relate’s own data also shows that the number of 18-34 year olds attending counselling on their own at Relate has increased by 7% since before the pandemic.[v] They want to encourage even more millennials and Gen-Zers to get in touch by accessing their online self-help content and attending services such as individual counselling to work on issues relating to low self-esteem, friendship and finding love.

Self-help singles
The report[vi] shows over two in five (42%) single people said they either have or are more likely to enter into short but intense romantic relationships with one or more people since restrictions have relaxed. Three in ten (30%) of single people surveyed said they make more effort to learn from previous mistakes and/or recognise unhealthy romantic patterns. Over a fifth (23%) of people use self-help resources including books, online quizzes or advice from wellness influencers more than they did pre the Covid-19 pandemic. Interestingly, 18–34-year-olds surveyed were the most likely age group to say that they use self-help resources more than pre the Covid-19 pandemic (32%).

Over a quarter (28%) of single people who said they are more likely to enter into short but intense romantic relationships since restrictions have relaxed said it’s because they now have a better sense of what they want from a relationship, and a similar number (24%) don’t want to waste any more time. However, sex presents an issue for some. One in four (25%) feel ‘out of practice’ in the bedroom, while over one in eight (13%) are not ready to be intimate again.

Rachael Lloyd, relationship expert at eharmony said: “Lockdown was hard for a lot of people, but it also gave singles the time to work out who they are and what they’re looking for in a partner. While it’s only natural that some people feel nervous about having sex again, lockdown has also created a boom in more meaningful dating, with people keen to find real substance. At eharmony, we’ve seen this kind of thing happening before – traumatic environmental events invariably lead to spikes in dating and people wanting to connect deeply with each other.”

The state of Britain’s couple relationships
Looking at those in relationships, the pandemic has sped up how quickly couples[vii] are reaching common relationship milestones including saying ‘I love you’ for the first time (68%), getting a pet (59%), buying a house together (58%), getting engaged (63%) and even trying for a baby (61%).

And for couples who have been in a relationship for a year or longer and whose quality of relationship has gotten better since before the Covid-19 pandemic, reasons include more quality time together as a family (46%), the opportunity for more open and honest conversations with their partner (37%) and a spike for some in how often they have sex (20%).

Over one in eight (13%) respondents, however, are left feeling that the quality of their relationship has worsened[viii] through the pandemic. The report found that one in ten (10%) UK adults agreed that having more time apart due to lockdown lifting will help their relationship.

Holly adds: “A key issue we see in counselling is partners not prioritising quality time together. Lockdown meant this was no longer a bone of contention but as restrictions ease and calendars get busier, making time for one another requires a more concerted effort.”

Access the full report

‘The Way We Are Now’ report has been released to launch Relate’s annual Relationships Week (5-11 July). People can access self-help content on learning to love yourself throughout the Week and beyond, and information on services to help boost self-esteem is available at You can also download a copy of the full report.


Relate and eharmony conducted a focus group with six practising Relate counsellors to gain insight into the state of relationships and single life based as we emerge from lockdown.

Censuswide on behalf of Third City conducted supplementary UK research in June 2021, among a nationally representative sample of 2,002 UK adults (18+) of which 176 were in the East Midlands. A boost of 1,008 UK singles was added to this sample – with a minimum quota set for 300 in Scotland, NI and Wales.

About Relate

Relate is the leading relationships charity and the Relate Federation is the largest provider of relationship support in England and Wales. Offering counselling, information, mediation and support to individuals, couples and families, we currently work online and on the phone with people of all backgrounds and sexual orientations at all stages of life. Find out more at

About eharmony

eharmony launched in 2000, and now forms part of the ParshipMeet Group the international market leader in matchmaking. Real love remains at the heart of everything we do. In an increasingly fast-paced dating culture, we take a more bespoke and supportive approach to creating relationships. Our unique Compatibility Matching System brings together like-minded singles who share core values and personality traits, which are key indicators of relationship success. We are constantly evolving our matching system, designed by psychologists, which measures each member’s profile across 32 dimensions of compatibility – factoring in traits such as kindness, openness, and communication style. The results speak for themselves – every 14 minutes someone finds love on eharmony. Take our virtual tour at

[i] This finding combines respondents who said ‘Somewhat decreased’ or ‘Significantly decreased’

[ii] This finding combines respondents who said ‘Somewhat increased’ or ‘Significantly increased’

[iii] This finding combines respondents who said ‘Strongly agree’ or ‘Somewhat agree’

[iv] This finding is based on a 125% increase in page views between 25 April – 24 May 2021 compared to the previous 26 March – 24 April 2021

[v] This finding compares the monthly averages of 18-34 year olds accessing Relate’s counselling services on their own from February 2020 to May 2021.

[vi] This finding refers to 1,008 single people with min. 150 in Scotland, min. 200 in Wales and min. 250 in Northern Ireland. (18+)

[vii] This finding refers to those who are in a relationship and are planning on doing the following with their partner in the next six months:’ Saying I love you for the first time’, ‘Going on holiday together for the first time’, ‘Getting a pet’, ‘Moving into a house together’, ‘Buying a house together’, ‘Trying for a baby’, Getting engaged’, ‘Getting married’.

[viii] This finding combines respondents who said ‘Somewhat worse’ or ‘Much worse’

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