‘Obese people face mental, physical problems in corona times’

Researchers have found that COVID-19 pandemic is having a significant impact on people with obesity as they struggle to manage their weight and mental health.

For the study, published in the journal Clinical Obesity, the research team surveyed 123 weight management patients and revealed that nearly 73 per cent of the patients experienced increased anxiety and close to 84 per cent had increased depression.

“Everyone was told to stay home to protect themselves from the infection and this was especially important for people with severe obesity, who are more likely to have serious complications and a higher risk of death with the coronavirus,” said study author Sarah Messiah from the University of Texas at Houston in the US.

The study data came from an online questionnaire conducted April 15 to May 31. The participants had a mean age of 51, and 87 per cent were women. The mean body mass index for these patients was 40.

The findings showed that nearly 70 per cent reported more difficulty in achieving weight loss goals, while 48 per cent had less exercise time, and 56 per cent had less intensity in exercises.

Stockpiling of food increased in nearly half of patients and stress eating was reported in 61 per cent.

According to the researchers, two of the patients tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, but nearly 15 per cent reported symptoms of the virus. Almost 10 per cent lost their jobs and 20 per cent said they could not afford a balanced meal.

“The major strength of this study is that it is one of the first data-driven snapshots into how the Covid-19 pandemic has influenced health behaviours for patients with obesity,” said study author Jaime Almandoz.

Almandoz pointed out that many patients with obesity already struggle with access to appropriate fresh, healthy foods. Some reside in food desert areas lacking grocery stores, where the only options are fast food and processed foods from the convenience stores.

“Unchecked diabetes, hypertension, and other obesity-related comorbidities will create a huge backlog of needs that will come back to haunt us,” Almandoz said.

“When you throw in disruptions like social isolation, coupled with losing your job and insurance coverage, a potential disaster is waiting to unfold,” the authors wrote.

The researchers believe their work can inform clinicians and other health professionals on effective strategies to minimize the physical and psychosocial health impacts from Covid-19 among adults with obesity.

Another study published last month in the journal The BMJ, revealed that age, male sex, obesity, and underlying illness have emerged as risk factors for severe COVID-19 or death.

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