Survey reveals 1 in 10 adults experienced appetite and overeating impact during lockdown

A large, national survey has found more than half of adults experienced over-eating or poor appetite during the first COVID-19 lockdown.

The Monash University-led study of Australians immediately post the national COVID-19 lockdown on 22 March has found that more than one in 10 people reported overeating or poor appetite every day.

The paper, led by Dr Alice Owen, from the Monash University School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, and published in the journal Public Health Nutrition, looked at survey responses on eating behaviour from 13,829 people from 3 April to 2 May, during the lockdowns across Australian states and territories.

More than half (53.6 per cent) reported being bothered by poor appetite or overeating in the previous fortnight with 11.6 per cent reporting these issues affecting them nearly every day.

According to Dr Owen, a greater risk of experiencing overeating or poor appetite was seen in the following groups:

  • Those with high levels of anxiety
  • Women
  • Those very concerned about contracting COVID-19
  • Those in lockdown with children
  • Those who felt more severely impacted by being in lockdown
  • Those under 40 years of age
  • Those living alone or without a partner
  • Those living In a shared house with non-family members

There appears to be some protection from disordered eating in those who were older; living with adult family members without children; of higher socioeconomic status; not being in paid work/study before COVID-19 and those living in a regional area.

There are a number of potential reasons why eating behaviour may have changed during the April COVID-19 lockdown, including emotional eating, uptake of ‘iso-baking’ or perhaps finding it harder to ‘physically distance’ from the kitchen pantry.

The findings of this research mirrors what has been seen in other countries during lockdown. In Italy 53 per cent of people reported eating more, with almost one in five reporting weight gain.

Dr Owen said the data from the survey indicates that “there should be an informed and targeted public health strategy to assist people to restore healthier eating patterns during confinement, given that these may be ongoing, at differing levels, for some time.”

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