Dietary Diversity among Chinese Residents during the COVID-19 Outbreak and Its Associated Factors

Nutrients. 2020 Jun 6;12(6):1699. doi: 10.3390/nu12061699.


COVID-19, a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, has imposed enormous challenges on the health system, economy, and food supply and has substantially modified people's lifestyles. This study aimed to (1) explore the dietary diversity during the lockdown time in China and (2) examine factors associated with dietary diversity including socio-economic characteristics, sources for food and food purchases, and specific dietary behaviors responding to COVID-19 and isolation. A cross-sectional questionnaire-based survey was conducted online in March 2020. Multi-stage sampling was used to recruit participants living in Hubei Province and other parts of China. Dietary diversity was assessed using the Household Dietary Diversity Score (HDDS) and clustering analysis was used to categorize people with different propensities of methods for purchasing or obtaining foods. Logistic regression was used to model the associations among HDDS, participants' characteristics, approaches to purchase or obtain food, and behaviors adopted to cope with COVID-19. Results: A total of 1938 participants were included in the analysis. The overall mean HDDS was 9.7 ± 2.1, and the median (25th, 75th) was 10 (8, 12). There were relatively low consumptions of fish, legumes, and miscellaneous foods (e.g., processed food like snacks and beverages). After adjusting for age, family income, and geographic regions, people living in places where laboratory confirmed COVID-19 cases were above 500 (ORadjusted = 0.79, 95%CI 0.65, 0.96), or living in Hubei Province (ORadjusted = 0.60, 95%CI 0.39, 0.93) had a lower HDDS. During isolation time, the most common sources for food and food purchases were in-house storage and in person grocery shopping. More than half of the participants (55.9%) purchased food at least once via online ordering and delivery services. There was no significant difference in HDDS among people with distinct dependences on different ways to obtain or purchase food (i.e., dependence on in-person grocery shopping, dependence on both in-house storage and in-person grocery shopping, or dependence on online food purchasing). We also identified a total of 37.7% participants who consumed certain foods or nutritional supplements to cope with COVID-19, which included vitamin C, probiotics, other dietary supplements, alcohol, and vinegar. People who reported these specific dietary behaviors had a significantly higher HDDS (ORadjusted = 1.23, 95%CI 1.02, 1.45) than those who did not do so. This study revealed an overall good dietary diversity among the studied Chinese residents during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, we observed a lower dietary diversity among people living in areas with a high number of confirmed COVID-19 cases. Online ordering and delivery services were popular and could serve as a feasible method to obtain and purchase food, contributing to ensure diversified diets during the time of lockdown. Certain dietary behaviors associated with COVID-19 were also identified and had significant impacts on HDDS.

Keywords: COVID-19; dietary behaviors; household dietary diversity score.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • COVID-19
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • China / epidemiology
  • Coronavirus Infections / epidemiology*
  • Coronavirus Infections / physiopathology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diet / classification*
  • Diet / standards
  • Diet / trends
  • Dietary Supplements / statistics & numerical data
  • Disease Outbreaks*
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal / administration & dosage
  • Female
  • Food Supply / methods
  • Food Supply / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pandemics
  • Pneumonia, Viral / epidemiology*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / physiopathology
  • Rural Population
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Urban Population
  • Young Adult


  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal