The Big Number: A major pandemic weight gain

By Linda Searing,

Since the pandemic began, about 42 percent of U.S. adults have gained weight — 29 pounds, on average, according to the American Psychological Association’s latest “Stress in America” report. About half of the weight-gainers reported adding more than 15 pounds; 10 percent, more than 50 pounds. Men have put on more weight than women (37 vs. 22 pounds, on average), and younger adults have gained more than older people (millennials averaging 41 pounds vs. baby boomers at 16 pounds). Not everyone has gained, however. Some 18 percent reported unwanted weight loss (or weight loss more than intended). In this group, the average weight loss was 26 pounds, with half losing at least 12 pounds. Besides weight, the APA survey looked at changes in such areas as sleep and alcohol consumption. It noted that adults’ physical health may be declining because of problems coping with the stresses of the pandemic: grief, trauma, isolation and a change in daily habits. In a similar vein, a small study published in the journal JAMA Network Open found that after stay-at-home orders were issued in spring 2020, people tended to gain an average of 1.5 pounds a month. Those whose weight gain makes them overweight or obese face increased risk for various long-term health problems, including high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and more. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that people who are overweight face a higher risk of developing severe illness from the coronavirus.

— Linda Searing

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