Impact of lockdown on Aussie appetites

15th October 2020 | Eativity editors

COVID-19 has messed with so much of what we used to take for granted: dining out at a nice restaurant, going to work every morning, access to affordable fresh produce, a social life. Now, a new study has found that more than half of us experienced overeating or poor appetite during the first lockdown. The Monash University-led study of Australians immediately post the national COVID-19 lockdown on March 22 has found that more than one in 10 Australians 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, looked at survey responses on eating behaviour from 13,829 people from April 3 to May 2, during the lockdowns across Australian states and territories.

More than half (53.6 percent) reported having a poor appetite or overeating in the previous fortnight, with 11.6 percent reporting that these issues affected them nearly every day.

An increase in iso-baking is just one reason why our eating behaviours changed during lockdown.

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

People with high levels of anxiety
Those very concerned about contracting COVID-19
Parents and carers in lockdown with children
Those who felt more severely impacted by being in lockdown
People under 40 years of age
People 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 people who are older; living with adult family members without children; of higher socioeconomic status; not being in paid work/study before COVID-19 and people 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, the uptake of “iso-baking” and finding it harder to stay away from the kitchen fridge and cupboards.

The findings of this research mirror what’s been seen in other countries during lockdown. In Italy, 53 percent of people reported eating more, with almost one in five gaining weight.

Dr Owen says 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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