The researchers surveyed 838 adults across the nation about their pandemic-related stress and dietary habits, Khubchandani said.
The study found that 68% of respondents reported their diet quality had worsened or remained the same during the pandemic. It also found that 78% of respondents said their tendency to overeat remained the same or increased during the pandemic.
Meanwhile, 70% of respondents reported that their tendency to fast or skip meals remained the same or increased during the pandemic. Seventy-two percent said their tendency to restrict eating (limiting food quantity) remained the same or increased during the pandemic.
Compared to groups that reported a reduction in unhealthy behaviors, groups with an increase in unhealthy dietary practices had the highest stress scores, according to the study. Stress scores were the highest for racial and ethnic minorities, females, those employed part-time, and those who were single or 35 years old and younger. The study found that those who experienced worsening diets at higher rates had the highest stress scores.
The study also concluded that all but a quarter of Americans have struggled with finances and multiple stressors during the pandemic, and those who did not have an opportunity to work from home and lost their jobs struggled the most.
Khubchandani said local communities can play a critical role in helping residents manage stress caused by the pandemic.
“NMSU and the greater Las Cruces community should be used as examples of how communities can contribute to improved health and well-being of citizens,” he explained. “Early and mass COVID-19 testing of students and community members at NMSU is certainly assuring, and such measures reduce panic and stress in the population.”
He added, “While many young people, especially college students, across the country are struggling for food, the NMSU Aggie Cupboard is a type of resource that should be deployed for college students across the nation so they do not sleep hungry. It’s a worthwhile initiative for our next generation that is under immense stress right now.”
To read more about the study titled “COVID-19 Pandemic, Stress, and Eating Practices in the United States,” visit mdpi.com/2254-9625/10/4/67.