The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted everyday life, isolated people from friends and family, and spawned an economic crisis.
On top of all that, it has also affected people’s mental and physical health. A global survey conducted earlier this year confirms what many have already experienced firsthand: The virus and resulting lockdowns led to dramatic changes in health behaviors, with people around the world cutting back on physical activity and eating more junk foods. It has also worsened anxiety and disrupted sleep.
And those who are obese, who already face increased health risks, may have fared the worst, the researchers found. While they tended to experience improvements in some aspects of their diets, they were also the most likely to report struggling with their weight and mental health.
The study, carried out by researchers at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana, surveyed almost 8,000 adults across the globe, including people from 50 different countries and every state in America. The researchers found that the decline in healthy behaviors during the pandemic was fairly common regardless of geography.
They found that most people became more sedentary, and many said they had given in to their food cravings. Consumption of sweetened beverages and sugary snack foods, for example, went up. About 27 percent of people said they had gained weight after the initial lockdowns went into effect.
The findings, published in the journal Obesity, offer a cautionary lesson. With months to go before we can safely resume our pre-pandemic routines, now might be a good time to assess the healthy habits we may have let slip and to find new ways to be proactive about our physical and mental health.