1 June 2022

Top trends from our latest look at online lives

Our latest research gives us an insight into how people in the UK spend their time online. Where they visit, what they do, and how they feel about it.

With people in the UK spending a fair chunk of their waking hours on sites and apps – a daily average of four hours, with three of those spent on a smartphone – it’s clear that being online makes up a significant part of our lives.

Our research throws up a range of findings – so we’ve pulled out some key themes that give a feel of people’s online experiences today.

The benefits largely outweigh the risks

Two thirds of internet users aged 13 or older feel that the benefits of being online outweigh the risks, with a much smaller proportion (7%) saying the risks outweigh the benefits.

Almost half agreed that being online has a positive impact on their mental health, while 14% disagreed. People who spend more than 22 hours a week of their personal time online are more likely to agree that the online benefits outweigh the risks, and also more likely to agree that being online has a positive effect on their mental health.

However, younger adults, women and people from minority ethnic groups are more likely to believe that the risks of being online outweigh the benefits. Those from minority ethnic groups are twice as likely as white users to say the risks of being online outweigh the benefits. Women and people aged 18 to 34 are more likely to disagree that being online has an overall positive effect on their mental health. And women are significantly less likely than men to feel that being online allows them to share their opinions and have a voice.

A nation of online shoppers

Nine in ten adults who are online said they visited Amazon, making it the most visited online shopping platform. The next most-used online retailers were eBay and the Apple store.

But it’s not just exclusively online retailers who are benefiting from our willingness to browse and buy online. Our figures show us that the top ten most visited shopping sites includes retailers who also have a bricks-and-mortar presence on our high streets, with Argos, Tesco, Boots, Sainsburys and Marks & Spencer all featuring.

RankRetail and commerceTotal adult reach in September (million)Total adult reach in September
6Google Shopping14.0m28%
10Marks & Spencer12.5m25%

Looking for love online

One in ten UK adults who are online say they used an online dating service. Online dating is particularly popular among internet users aged 25-34, with one in five of these visiting at least one service. Tinder was the most used, by 1.9 million (4%) of people, and was the most popular dating service with younger age groups.

But online dating isn’t exclusively for younger people - OurTime, a dating service for the over-50s was visited by 1% of over-65s, making it the most-visited service for this age group.

Gamers are social creatures

Just over half of adults who play video games on consoles do so online with someone else – and this rises to two thirds of people aged 16 to 24. Three quarters of children aged three to 15 also play online with other gamers – these include people they know, and also people they’ve never met.

UK gamers aged between 13 and 64 spent seven and a half hours a week gaming. Online gameplay became increasingly important to children aged 8-17 during the pandemic: 85% of parents of these children said their child spent more time playing games online in 2021 than they had before.

On average, UK gamers spend more on digital than on physical game purchases; this includes gaming subscription services. PlayStation Plus, the multiplayer gaming online console, was the most popular paid-for gaming subscription in the UK, with 3.2 million subscribers at the end of 2021. Millions of people are also playing free-to-play digital games – with Candy Crush Saga and Wordle among the most popular of these games. One in five UK adult told us they play games like these at least monthly.

And when they’re not playing games, people are watching other people play them instead. Over half of people aged 13 to 64 watch video games-related content, with many saying it makes them feel part of the gaming community. YouTube is the most popular platform for watching games-related content, used by three quarters of those who watch gaming content. And Twitch, the gaming streaming service, is used by a quarter of games content viewers.

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