Effects of Social Distancing During the COVID-19 Pandemic on Anxiety and Eating Behavior—A Longitudinal Study

Frontiers in Psychology 12 (2021)
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Abstract

As social animals, humans need to live in groups. This contact with conspecifics is essential for their evolution and survival. Among the recommendations to reduce transmission of the new coronavirus responsible for COVID-19 are social distancing and home confinement. These measures may negatively affect the social life and, consequently, the emotional state and eating behavior of individuals. We assessed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the anxiety, premenstrual symptoms, and eating behavior of young women. Data collection was conducted in person and online. A total of 71 participants, average age of 21.26 years, took part in the study. Trait anxiety during the pandemic was significantly lower than in the prepandemic period. Investigation of the “anxiety/stress” symptom of the Premenstrual Symptoms Screening Tool revealed that this symptom was more severe before the pandemic. There was a decline in the desire for sweet and fatty foods during the pandemic. However, craving for traditional foods rose significantly in the same period. Uncontrolled and emotional eating were significantly lower during the pandemic. The results suggest that the pandemic may have had a positive impact on anxiety and eating behavior of the participants, which may be due to differences between urban and rural populations and the latter living with their families. These findings are important for raising a discussion regarding the effects of the current environment on the regulation of cognitive and dietary adaptations.

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