The Impact of COVID-19 Stay-At-Home Orders on Health Behaviors in Adults

Obesity (Silver Spring). 2021 Feb;29(2):438-445. doi: 10.1002/oby.23066. Epub 2020 Dec 18.


Objective: Stay-at-home orders in response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic have forced abrupt changes to daily routines. This study assessed lifestyle changes across different BMI classifications in response to the global pandemic.

Methods: The online survey targeting adults was distributed in April 2020 and collected information on dietary behaviors, physical activity, and mental health. All questions were presented as "before" and "since" the COVID-19 pandemic.

Results: In total, 7,753 participants were included; 32.2% of the sample were individuals with normal weight, 32.1% had overweight, and 34.0% had obesity. During the pandemic, overall scores for healthy eating increased (P < 0.001), owing to less eating out and increased cooking (P < 0.001). Sedentary leisure behaviors increased, while time spent in physical activity (absolute time and intensity adjusted) declined (P < 0.001). Anxiety scores increased 8.78 ± 0.21 during the pandemic, and the magnitude of increase was significantly greater in people with obesity (P ≤ 0.01). Weight gain was reported in 27.5% of the total sample compared with 33.4% in participants with obesity.

Conclusions: The COVID-19 pandemic has produced significant health effects, well beyond the virus itself. Government mandates together with fear of contracting the virus have significantly impacted lifestyle behaviors alongside declines in mental health. These deleterious impacts have disproportionally affected individuals with obesity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • COVID-19 / prevention & control*
  • Exercise / psychology*
  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Life Style*
  • Male
  • Mental Health
  • Obesity / psychology
  • Overweight / psychology
  • Quarantine / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Quarantine / psychology*
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult