A global survey has found that the initial phase of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) lockdowns had negative consequences on individuals’ personal habits, including their sleep and exercise routines.

The first-of-its kind survey evaluated unintended changes in health behaviors during the pandemic’s widespread restrictions, including lockdowns and social distancing measures. The survey was conducted during April 2020, with more than 12,000 people globally looking at the survey and 7754 people completing the detailed questionnaire.

According to a press release, the majority of respondents were in the United States, with half from Louisiana. Residents of Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and more than 50 other countries also responded.

Interestingly, survey respondents reported similar reactions to the pandemic regardless of where they lived. Investigators also found that the lockdown’s effects were magnified among people with obesity. Only 1 major health improvement was noted, with healthy eating habits increasing as people ate out less frequently. However, the investigators found that people snacked more often, got less exercise, went to bed later and slept more poorly, and had significantly higher levels of anxiety.

“Overall, people with obesity improved their diets the most,” said investigator Leanne Redman, PhD, in a press release. “One-third of people with obesity gained weight during the lockdown, compared to 20.5% of people with normal weight or overweight.”

Based on their results, the authors suggested several modifications in the way health professionals manage patients with obesity, including increasing the number of mental health screenings during and after the pandemic and remaining connected to patients through remote visits and telehealth. These connections could prevent irreversible health effects from the pandemic and can assuage patients’ concerns about the safety of in-person visits.

REFERENCE
COVID-19 Lockdown Reduced Mental Health, Sleep, Exercise [news release]. Pennington Biomedical Research Center; October 23, 2020. https://www.pbrc.edu/news/press-releases/?ArticleID=608. Accessed October 27, 2020.