Background: On December 12th 2019, a new coronavirus (SARS-Cov2) emerged in Wuhan, China, sparking a pandemic of acute respiratory syndrome in humans (COVID-19). On the 24th of April 2020, the number of COVID-19 deaths in the world, according to the COVID-Case Tracker by Johns Hopkins University, was 195,313, and the number of COVID-19 confirmed cases was 2,783,512. The COVID-19 pandemic represents a massive impact on human health, causing sudden lifestyle changes, through social distancing and isolation at home, with social and economic consequences. Optimizing public health during this pandemic requires not only knowledge from the medical and biological sciences, but also of all human sciences related to lifestyle, social and behavioural studies, including dietary habits and lifestyle.
Methods: Our study aimed to investigate the immediate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on eating habits and lifestyle changes among the Italian population aged ≥ 12 years. The study comprised a structured questionnaire packet that inquired demographic information (age, gender, place of residence, current employment); anthropometric data (reported weight and height); dietary habits information (adherence to the Mediterranean diet, daily intake of certain foods, food frequency, and number of meals/day); lifestyle habits information (grocery shopping, habit of smoking, sleep quality and physical activity). The survey was conducted from the 5th to the 24th of April 2020.
Results: A total of 3533 respondents have been included in the study, aged between 12 and 86 years (76.1% females). The perception of weight gain was observed in 48.6% of the population; 3.3% of smokers decided to quit smoking; a slight increased physical activity has been reported, especially for bodyweight training, in 38.3% of respondents; the population group aged 18-30 years resulted in having a higher adherence to the Mediterranean diet when compared to the younger and the elderly population (p < 0.001; p < 0.001, respectively); 15% of respondents turned to farmers or organic, purchasing fruits and vegetables, especially in the North and Center of Italy, where BMI values were lower.
Conclusions: In this study, we have provided for the first time data on the Italian population lifestyle, eating habits and adherence to the Mediterranean Diet pattern during the COVID-19 lockdown. However, as the COVID-19 pandemic is ongoing, our data need to be confirmed and investigated in future more extensive population studies.
Keywords: COVID-19; Coronavirus; Eating habits; Lifestyle; Mediterranean diet.