Britons’ fifty most annoying habits

The average adult will attempt to stop their bad habit twice a year, with six in 10 admitting they have never been able to quit

Gemma Francis
Thursday 12 July 2018 10:50 BST
Spending too long scrolling through social media is one of our least favourite habits
Spending too long scrolling through social media is one of our least favourite habits

Comfort eating, swearing, stressing – and spending too much time on social media are among the nation’s worst bad habits, a study has found.

A poll of 2,000 Brits revealed the average adult has three irritating behaviours, with tucking into treats and food when they are feeling stressed or tired the most common.

Nail biting, not doing any exercise and eating fast food also feature in the top 10.

But it emerged the average adult will attempt to stop their bad habit twice a year, with six in 10 admitting they have never been able to quit.

And even those who do manage to give up say it took them almost five weeks of will power and perseverance to put it behind them.

Dr Meg Arroll, a psychologist on behalf of wellness brand Healthspan, which commissioned the research, said: “Changing existing habits, particularly eating habits, is complex as we develop these behaviours over a lifetime.

“Food can easily be associated with comfort as high fat and sugar treats trigger our brain’s reward centre and comfort foods such as chocolate boost feel-good neurotransmitters, offering an antidepressant effect.”

The study found comfort eating is the most common bad habit, followed by swearing too much, nail-biting, a lack of exercise and procrastinating.

Stressing about everything and eating fast food are also in the top 10, as well as always hitting snooze on the alarm clock and spending too long scrolling through social media.

Eating too much chocolate, tucking into crisps and watching too much TV are also common bad habits along with bingeing on box sets and browsing smart phones while lying in bed.

Hoarding items you don’t really need, twiddling your hair and cracking knuckles also feature in the top 50.

Eating fast food is another common bad habit among Britons, the poll revealed

But while four in 10 have successfully given up a bad habit, 44 per cent of those admit they have usually ended up going back to the old behaviour before too long.

Around one in four name stress as the biggest barrier to giving up a vice, while one in five say temptation simply gets the better of them and they can’t stop.

But it’s no surprise comfort eating was found to be the nation’s most common bad habit, with 27 per cent admitting food soothes them when they are feeling anxious or unhappy.

More than a third say they find themselves over eating when they are feeling bored, with another 29 per cent turning to food during stressful times.

In fact, less than one in five reckon they can resist food when it is placed in front of them.

The nation’s love of food leads to the average adult trying to lose weight four times a year following their comfort eating periods.

The research, carried out via also revealed that if Brits could make one single lifestyle choice, one in five would choose to exercise more while one in 10 would opt for healthier food.

Dr Arroll, who is also author of a new book called “The Shrinkology Solution”, added: “People who want to lose weight go on highly restrictive diets which offer a quick fix of initial weight loss but do not address the underlying reasons why people turn to food as comfort.

“Only by increasing awareness of why, not just what, we eat, can we then start to make the small changes needed to develop new, healthier eating habits.

“The ultimate goal is to convert small changes into lasting habits.

“The key here really is to use the small changes in daily life that suit you and your life.

"This will make the new behaviours stick for good as we can all manage a slight tweak to our patterns and habits – it’s only when we try to punish ourselves with massive, insurmountable changes that we struggle to keep going.

“It may seem too easy as many of us have a ‘no pain, no gain’ view of health and fitness – but research shows that it’s the little things that really make a difference long-term.”

Rob Hobson, registered Healthspan nutritionist said: “We are a nation of snackers and grazers but the variety of food now has grown vastly and comfort eating can be healthier.”

Top 50 bad habits

  1. Comfort eating
  2. Swearing
  3. Biting nails
  4. Not doing exercise
  5. Procrastinating
  6. Stressing about things
  7. Nose picking
  8. Eating fast food
  9. Snoozing alarm
  10. Spending too long scrolling through social media
  11. Eating too much chocolate
  12. Smoking
  13. Forgetting people's names
  14. Drinking too much coffee or tea
  15. Interrupting people
  16. Eating too many crisps
  17. Being untidy
  18. Watching too much TV
  19. Being forgetful
  20. Squeezing spots
  21. Looking at your phone too much
  22. Slouching/not walking upright
  23. Being a hoarder
  24. Eating too quickly
  25. Binging on box sets
  26. Using your phone in bed
  27. Leaving dishes that need washing in the sink
  28. Not flossing
  29. Picking scabs
  30. Fidgeting with fingers
  31. Being argumentative
  32. Drinking too much fizzy drink
  33. Watching reality TV
  34. Jiggling leg when sitting down
  35. Twiddling hair
  36. Drinking milk or juice directly from the carton
  37. Buying things on credit cards
  38. Picking teeth
  39. Being bad with money
  40. Chewing on pens
  41. Cracking your knuckles
  42. Chewing gum
  43. Eating too much meat
  44. Being cheap
  45. Checking work emails out-of-hours
  46. Drumming fingers
  47. Playing too many video games
  48. Being a gossip
  49. Fibbing
  50. Vaping


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