Faculty Proceedings, Presentations, Speeches and Lectures


COVID-19 Psychological Symptoms and Pandemic-Related Lifestyle Changes on Weight

Event Title

American Public Health Association (APHA) 2021 Annual Meeting & Expo

Event Location


Document Type


Presentation Date


Date Range

2021-10-24 to 2021-10-27


Introduction: Essential workers serving the healthcare sector experienced significantly higher burdens and life demands due to working under strenuous and uncertain conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Chronic stress and lifestyle disruption can lead to changes in eating patterns, weight, and physical activity which can be associated with health outcomes. This study aimed to quantify how psychological stress assessed during the height of the pandemic (spring 2020) was associated with workers' self-reported weight change 6 months later.

Methods: 242 workers completed online questionnaires focused on psychological stress at baseline and weight and lifestyle six-months later. Using one-way ANOVA, differences in depression (PHQ-2), anxiety (GAD-7), insomnia (ISI), and post-traumatic stress (IES-R) symptoms were compared across groups who lost weight (<5 pounds), gained weight (>5 pounds), and those whose weight did not change.

Results: Of the sample, 14% reported weight loss greater than five pounds, 46% reported no weight change and 40% report weight gain greater than five pounds. Compared to those with no weight change, people who reported weight gain suffered from significantly greater insomnia (mean difference=2.54, SE=0.82; p=.007). Higher anxiety tended to be reported in those who lost weight (p=.15). No other differences in psychological symptoms by weight change were found.

Discussion: These findings showed insomnia is particularly problematic in individuals with weight gain and anxiety may contribute to unintentional weight loss. These study findings contribute to understanding how psychological stress relates to pandemic-related changes in health behaviors and weight change among essential workers.