Confinement orders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic have driven sudden changes in daily routines. The study assessed lifestyle changes across different BMI classifications in response to the global pandemic.
The online survey targeting adults was distributed in April 2020 and collected information on dietary behaviours, physical activity, and mental health. All questions were presented as “before” and “since” the COVID-19 pandemic.
In total, 7,753 participants were included; 32.2% of the sample were individuals with normal weight, 32.1% had overweight, and 34.0% had obesity. During the pandemic, overall scores for healthy eating increased (P < 0.001), owing to less eating out and increased cooking (P < 0.001). Sedentary leisure behaviours increased, while time spent in physical activity (absolute time and intensity adjusted) declined (P < 0.001). Anxiety scores increased 8.78 ± 0.21 during the pandemic, and the magnitude of increase was significantly greater in people with obesity (P ≤ 0.01). Weight gain was reported in 27.5% of the total sample compared with 33.4% in participants with obesity.
The pandemic has produced significant health outcomes, well beyond the virus itself. Government mandates together with the fear of contracting the infection have significantly impacted lifestyle behaviours alongside declines in mental health. These deleterious impacts have disproportionally affected individuals with obesity.