Study: Average American Gained 1.5 Pounds Per Month During COVID-19 Pandemic

March 25th 2021
Aislinn Antrim

Although 1.5 pounds over a month may not appear clinically important, it could lead to substantial weight gain over the prolonged pandemic.

New research has found that shelter-in-place (SIP) orders during the COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on the population’s weight, with the average American gaining 2 pounds per month over the last year.

Despite common discussions about the “quarantine 15,” researchers have struggled to quantify the exact impact of the pandemic on physical health and fitness levels. In the study, researchers noted that surveys asking people about their weight are typically unreliable, and because many Americans have postponed their routine medical appointments, physicians may not have been able to catch these issues.

According to the study authors, 45 state governments issued SIP orders between March 19 and April 6, 2020, to slow transmission of COVID-19. These initial orders coincided with a decrease in daily step counts, likely due to changes in physical activity and daily habits, as well as self-reported increases in snacking and overeating, according to the study.

To investigate the possible down-stream health implications of prolonged SIP orders, investigators performed a longitudinal analysis of data obtained from participants in the Health eHeart Study who volunteered to report weight measurements from their Bluetooth-connected smart scale or iHealth. Demographic characteristics and medical conditions were obtained via online surveys.

According to the study authors, 7444 weight measurements from 269 unique study participants were collected during the study period, with a mean of 28 weight measurements per participant. Of the 269 participants, 130 were men and 207 were white, and the group had a mean age of 51.9 years.

According to their findings, post-SIP participants experienced steady weight gain of 0.27 kg every 10 days, irrespective of geographic location of comorbidities. This translates into approximately 1.5 pounds of weight gain every month.

These findings could have significant implications, as weight is a clinically relevant health outcome and is independently associated with all-cause mortality. It is also a helpful proxy for physical activity, which the study authors said is also associated with all-cause mortality.

When they analyzed weight trends around the initial SIP orders, the investigators found a significant increase in weight over the post-SIP period. Although 1.5 pounds over a month may not appear clinically important, it could lead to substantial weight gain over the prolonged pandemic, the authors said.

REFERENCE

Lin A, Vittinghoff E, Olgin J, et al. Body Weight Changes During Pandemic-Related Shelter-in-Place in a Longitudinal Cohort Study. JAMA Network Open; March 22, 2021. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2777737?utm_source=For_The_Media&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=ftm_links&utm_term=032221. Accessed March 25, 2021.

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