This may not come as a surprise — but Americans drank more, smoked more, watched more TV and exercised less during COVID-19 business closures and stay-at-home orders, according to a UCLA-led study released Tuesday.
The study, published in the Switzerland-based journal Nutrients, confirmed that Americans largely settled into sedentary routines during the height of the pandemic.
“We found that regulations to restrict non-essential activities and stay-at-home orders during the pandemic have had profoundly negative impacts on multiple lifestyle behaviors in American adults,” according to a statement from 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 disproportionately impact racial and ethnic minorities in the U.S., who already bear a higher disease burden from COVID-19.”
Researchers conducted a survey of representative samples of American adults from across the country in October, asking them to report on lifestyle behaviors such as exercise time, time spent in front of a TV or computer screen, alcohol consumption, cigarette smoking and fast-food consumption.
According to the survey, respondents reported a 31.2% drop in exercise time compared to pre-pandemic times, while screen time increased by 60.4%, alcohol consumption jumped by 23.2% and smoking increased by 9%. The average consumption of fast food, however, dropped from 1.41 times a week before the pandemic to 0.96 times a week during the pandemic.
“We found a marked increase in sedentary behaviors, alcohol consumption, and cigarette smoking, and a decline in exercise,” said study co-author Dr. Jian Li, who is also affiliated with the Fielding School’s Center for Occupational and Environmental Health. “Whether these persisted as the pandemic continued, and whether individual’s quality of life and health well-being are subsequently affected, has to be studied, but it is clear that resources and support that can help people maintain healthy lifestyles, during the pandemic and afterwards, are urgently needed.”