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Amid Pandemic, Changes Seen in Lifestyle Behaviors, Mental Health

Anxiety scores up during pandemic, with greater increase among those with obesity

a woman llooking stressed

THURSDAY, Oct. 29, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in significant changes in lifestyle behaviors, including increases in sedentary behavior and decreases in physical activity, and declines in mental health, according to a study published online Oct. 11 in Obesity.

Emily W. Flanagan, Ph.D., from the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and colleagues examined lifestyle changes across different body mass index classifications in response to the global pandemic. Surveys were distributed in April 2020 and information was collected on dietary behaviors, physical activity, and mental health among 7,753 adults.

Overall, 32.2, 32.1, and 34.0 percent of individuals in the sample had normal weight, overweight, and obesity, respectively. The researchers found that overall scores for healthy eating increased during the pandemic, due to increased cooking and less eating out. There was an increase observed in sedentary leisure activities and a decrease in time spent in physical activity (absolute time and intensity-adjusted). During the pandemic, anxiety scores increased; among those with obesity, the magnitude of the increase was significantly greater. Weight gain was reported in 27.5 and 33.4 percent of the total sample and those with obesity, respectively.

"With increased cases of weight gain and significant declines to mental health, COVID-19 may impact clinical practice for years to come," the authors write.

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