Relationship between Mental Health and Emotional Eating during the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Systematic Review

Nutrients. 2022 Sep 26;14(19):3989. doi: 10.3390/nu14193989.


Obesity is one of the most dangerous epidemics of the 21st century. In 2019, the COVID-19 pandemic began and caused many deaths among patients with obesity with and without complications. Simultaneously, the lockdown related to the COVID-19 pandemic caused a host of emotional problems including anxiety, depression, and sleep disturbances. Many people began to cope with their emotions by increasing food (emotional eating) and alcohol consumption and in combination with decreased physical activity, promoted the development of overweight and obesity. Emotional eating, also known as stress eating, is defined as the propensity to eat in response to positive and negative emotions and not physical need. It should be noted that emotional eating may be the first step in the development of binge eating disorder and its extreme subtypes such as food addiction. Interestingly in some post-bariatric surgery patients, an increased frequency of addictive disorders has been observed, for example food addiction replaced by alcohol addiction called: "cross addiction" or "addiction transfer". This data indicates that obesity should be treated as a psychosomatic disease, in the development of which external factors causing the formation of negative emotions may play a significant role. Currently, one of these factors is the COVID-19 pandemic. This manuscript discusses the relationships between the COVID-19 pandemic and development of emotional eating as well as potential implications of the viral pandemic on the obesity pandemic, and the need to change the approach to the treatment of obesity in the future.

Keywords: COVID-19; body mass index; emotional eating; obesity; overweight.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Communicable Disease Control
  • Emotions
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders* / complications
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders* / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Mental Health
  • Obesity / etiology
  • Pandemics

Grants and funding

This research received no external funding.