Even if they don’t contract the disease, patients living with obesity have found the pandemic to be harmful to their emotional and physical health.
The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic is taking a mental and physical toll on people living with obesity, even if they haven’t been infected with the virus, according to a new study published in Clinical Obesity.
COVID-19, which is caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), has infected more then 10 million people worldwide and has caused over half a million deaths, according to the World Health Organization. The risk of death is especially high in individuals who are obese or have comorbidities such as heart disease and diabetes. According to a press release, it is crucial that these individuals shelter in place and social distance, but it’s taking a toll on their mental and physical health.
The new study was composed of 123 weight management patients at the University of Texas (UT) Southwestern Weight Wellness Program, 2 of which tested positive for COVID-19. The study found that nearly 73% of patients experienced increased anxiety and 84% had increased depression. Seventy percent of patients also reported more difficulty in achieving weight loss goals. According to the press release, 48% had less time to exercise and 56% had a lower intensity of exercise. Stress eating was also reported by 61% of patients.
"You don't have to contract the virus to be adversely affected by it. The major strength of this study is that it is one of the first data-driven snapshots into how the COVID-19 pandemic has influenced health behaviors for patients with obesity," said Jaime Almandoz, MD, MBA, the study’s first author and an endocrinologist and assistant professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern, in the press release.
During the pandemic, patients with obesity may be missing medical appointments, medications, and surgeries, according to the press release. Additionally, nearly 10% of study patients lost their jobs, which can mean a loss of health insurance as well. Furthermore, 20% of the study population reported that they could not afford a balanced meal.
Mental, physical health of people with obesity affected during COVID-19 pandemic [News release]. Houston, TX: University of Texas; June 10, 2020. Accessed July 2, 2020.