During the pandemic, American adults on average exercised less, drank and smoked more and spent more time in front of computer or television screens, according to a study released Tuesday.
UCLA researchers surveyed American adults in October 2020 about five “lifestyle behaviors”: exercise time, screen time, fast food consumption, alcohol consumption and smoking.
Compared to before the COVID-19 pandemic, exercise time decreased by 31%, screen time increased by 60%, alcohol consumption increased by 23%, and smoking by 9% .
The researchers noted that the surveys were carried out in October, so the results can only reflect changes in lifestyle at that time during the pandemic.
Jian Li, professor of environmental health sciences at UCLA, said in a statement that measures and recommendations to reduce the spread of COVID-19 were “vital.” However, these measures resulted in a “profound change in normal daily activities”.
Average fast food consumption has dropped from 1.41 times per week before the pandemic to 0.96 times per week. But while 77% of those surveyed reduced or did not change their consumption of fast food, 23% saw an increase in the fast food they ate, according to the study.
This was likely due to home orders and the closure of many fast food restaurants during the pandemic, Liwei Chen, associate professor of epidemiology at UCLA and lead author of the study, said in the statement.
The study results match previous research in Canada, Italy, Brazil and Poland that observed unhealthy lifestyle changes during the pandemic, the researchers said.
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Black and Hispanic Americans were more likely to have unwanted changes in exercise, screen time, fast food consumption and alcohol consumption compared to white Americans, according to the study. Native Americans were also more likely to see a decrease in exercise time and an increase in fast food consumption.
“As bad as these changes have been for all Americans, they are having a disproportionate impact on racial and ethnic minorities in the United States, who already bear a higher disease burden from COVID-19,” Chen said in the communicated.
The researchers said this impact on communities of color is consistent with previous research showing “the disproportionate exposure to and suffering of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Compared with people aged 60 and over, young adults aged 18 to 29 were also more likely to see their exercise time decrease and their consumption of fast food, alcohol and cigarettes increased, according to the study. .
“Future lifestyle interventions could become more effective if they could target those high-risk subgroups that are more likely to be disproportionately affected,” the researchers said in the study.
The increase in sedentary behavior and other negative lifestyle impacts are worth considering, the researchers said.
“It needs to be investigated whether these have persisted as the pandemic continued and whether the quality of life and health well-being of individuals is subsequently affected,” Li said. “But it is clear that the resources and support that can help people maintain healthy lifestyles, during and after the pandemic, are urgently needed. “
UCLA also released a guide in August on how to assess alcohol consumption during the pandemic and make changes. The guide encouraged asking simple questions about personal alcohol consumption and setting concrete goals to try to reduce alcohol consumption.
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