Poll: Alcoholism, weight gain seen among those coping with pandemic

The results could indicate a secondary health crisis will be facing the nation.

The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has affected the whole world, as efforts to slow the spread of the disease saw strict protocols imposed on even simple daily activities.

The American Psychological Association’s latest Stress in America poll indicates that the prolonged stress of the pandemic could be leading to undesired changes in weight, increased drinking, and other negative behaviors among Americans. The late-February survey of U.S. adults found that, since the onset of the pandemic, 61 percent of adults experienced undesired weight changes, with 42 percent saying they gained more than they intended (an average of 29 pounds) and 10 percent reporting they’ve gained more than 50 pounds, according to a news release.

More than two-thirds, 67 percent, of respondents reported they’ve been sleeping more or less than desired since the beginning of the pandemic while 23 percent reported drinking more alcohol in an effort to deal with the stress, the release says.

"We've been concerned throughout this pandemic about the level of prolonged stress, exacerbated by the grief, trauma and isolation that Americans are experiencing," Arthur C. Evans Jr., PhD, APA's CEO, says in the release. “This survey reveals a secondary crisis that is likely to have persistent, serious mental and physical health consequences for years to come. Health and policy leaders must come together quickly to provide additional behavioral health supports as part of any national recovery plan."

The poll found that 47 percent of mothers who still have children at home or remote learning have reported their mental health has worsened compared to before the pandemic, while 31 percent overall of adults report the same. Meanwhile 54 percent of essential workers like health care workers and those in law enforcement say that they’ve relied on a lot of unhealthy habits to get through the pandemic, the release says.