Our waistlines and wellbeing have suffered during COVID-19, according to new survey

By Spencer Fowler Steen

Our emotional wellbeing and waistlines have suffered throughout the COVID-19 lockdown, according to a new study by Australia's national science agency, CSIRO.

The survey of nearly 4000 people found respondents were emerging from the pandemic feeling their exercise, emotional wellbeing and diet had worsened, with two in five indicating they had gained weight during the outbreak.

CSIRO behavioural scientist and report author Emily Brindal described the findings as reflective of the challenges millions of Australians are facing as they struggle to maintain wellbeing amid a significant lifestyle shift.

“Our analysis found that the COVID-19 outbreak has negatively impacted respondents’ health and wellbeing,” Dr Brindal said.

“According to our research there are clearly concerns around social connectedness, with 90 per cent of respondents feeling that there has been a negative impact on their ability to socialise and celebrate special events.”

Shepparton Medical Centre director Robert Campbell said throughout the pandemic people had had multiple levels of concerns including loss of earnings, paying rent or mortgages, and concerns for family.

He said Shepparton already had a well-documented problem with obesity, with more people turning to fast food during the pandemic for comfort and convenience.

“Once you put the weight on, it’s hard to get it off,” Dr Campbell said.

“Obesity is associated with increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, gall stones, bowel cancer and arthritis because you’re carrying extra weight.

“I think fast food in Shepparton have been doing a roaring trade.”

Dr Brindal said almost 60 per cent of people reported a negative shift in their overall satisfaction with life.

“Increased concern about finances and the certainty of the future also featured strongly, as restrictions ease and respondents adjust to a new normal,” she said.

“This number was noticeably higher for those who were identified as highly extroverted, with this group seeing significant impact from the lack of social interaction.

“Those identified as highly emotional eaters also reported higher decreases in their average wellbeing levels than others.”

With all the doom and gloom surrounding our health, Dr Campbell said there were actions we could take to improve our physical and mental health.

“Walking is the easiest thing, you don't have to go out for a run,” he said.

“It’s not just about exercise, it’s looking at what you eat too.

“I encourage anyone with mental health issues to speak with doctors if they have concerns.

“It’s good to talk; for friends, check in by asking are you okay, and check on your neighbours if they're living alone, especially if they're elderly.”