UCLA Research Finds Americans Drank More, Smoked More, and Exercised Less During Pandemic

Newswise – LOS ANGELES (October 13, 2021) – Americans drank and smoked more, spent less time exercising, and spent more time in front of computers or TVs than before the pandemic, one found UCLA-led research team.

“We have found that regulations aimed at restricting non-essential activities and stay-at-home orders during the pandemic have had profoundly negative impacts on multiple lifestyle behaviors among American adults,” said Dr Liwei Chen, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health associate professor of epidemiology and lead author of the study. “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.”

The research – “Changes in exercise, screen time, fast food consumption, alcohol and smoking during COVID-19 pandemic in adults in the United States” – is published in the current edition of the peer-reviewed journal Nutrients, based in Basel, Switzerland. The study is being led by researchers at UCLA in collaboration with academics from 10 other U.S. institutions, including the Center for Reducing Health Disparities at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), induced by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), has caused a global pandemic since March 2020. About 5% of those infected had severe symptoms and had need intensive care, and by September 2021, more than 220 million people had been infected and 4.5 million had died worldwide. According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in October, more than 702,000 Americans with COVID-19 have died since January 2020.

“During the current pandemic, many countries, including the United States, have implemented measures and recommendations to restrict non-essential activities and reduce the spread of the disease,” said Dr Jian Li, professor at the Fielding School of Environmental Health Sciences and co-author. “While these restrictions are vital in reducing human-to-human infection of COVID-19, it is clear that they are causing a profound change in normal daily activities and behaviors, including exercise and eating habits, as well. than smoking and alcohol consumption. “

The research team interviewed representative samples of American adults from across the country in October 2020, using 48 sampling criteria, including age, race, ethnicity, education, and gender. , and was asked to report five lifestyle behaviors (i.e. exercise time, screen time, fast food meal consumption, alcohol use, and smoking) before and during the COVID pandemic -19.

Compared to before the COVID-19 outbreak, among those surveyed, the time spent exercising decreased by 31.2%, while the time spent in front of a screen increased by 60.4%. Alcohol consumption increased by 23.2% and smoking by 9%. Average fast food consumption actually fell from 1.41 times / week before to 0.96 times / week during the pandemic.

“The observed decrease in fast food consumption is likely due to home ordering and fast food closings during the pandemic,” Chen said. “Although the majority of participants in our study, around 77%, reduced or saw no change in their consumption of fast food meals, there were still almost 23% who increased the amount of fast food. that they ate during the same period. “

Researchers recognize that their work has limits; the survey was carried out at the height of the pandemic in the United States, so changes in lifestyle behaviors may only reflect the peak of the pandemic. Nonetheless, there are lessons to be learned, the researchers said.

“We have seen a marked increase in sedentary behavior, alcohol consumption and smoking, and a decrease in exercise,” said Li, who is also affiliated with Fielding School. Center for occupational health and the environment. “Whether these have persisted as the pandemic continues, and whether the quality of life and health well-being of the individual is subsequently affected, needs to be investigated, but it is clear that the resources and supports that can help people maintain healthy lifestyles, during and after the pandemic, are urgently needed.

Methods: This analysis was conducted using data from the Health, Ethnicity, and Pandemic (HEAP) Study, designed by researchers at several universities, led by the University’s Center for Reducing Health Disparities of Nebraska. The HEAP survey was conducted by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago. The HEAP is a cross-sectional study in design and survey included questions related to mental health, lifestyle changes, racial discrimination, financial status and health care utilization. Of those surveyed, 20.5% were 18-29 years old, 25.5% 30-44 years old, 24.2% 45-59 years old, and 29.8% were 60 years or older. The study population reflected the racial / ethnic makeup of the United States, including non-Hispanic whites (61.3%), followed by Hispanics (16.7%), non-Hispanic blacks (11.9%), and Asians. and Pacific Islanders (6.4%). Respondents’ responses were analyzed using SAS statistical software.

Funding: The “Health, Ethnicity and Pandemic” (HEAP) study was funded by the Center for Reducing Health Disparities at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, the Chinese Economists Society and the Calvin J. Li Memorial Foundation. Tong Xia was supported by a scholarship from the Department of Epidemiology at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

Declaration of data availability: The data presented in this study are available on request from the corresponding author and the Center for Reducing Health Disparities at the University of Nebraska.

Quote: Liwei Chen, Jian Li, Tong Xia, Timothy A. Matthews, Tung-Sung Tseng, Lu Shi, Donglan Zhang, Zhuo Chen, Xuesong Han, Yan Li, Hongmei Li, Ming Wen and Dejun Su. 2021. “Changes in exercise, screen time, fast food consumption, alcohol and smoking during COVID-19 pandemic in adults in the United States” Nutrients 13, no. 10: 3359. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13103359

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