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Feeling off? You’re not alone: weight and wellbeing suffered during lockdown

A new study by Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, has found that weight and emotional wellbeing has suffered throughout the COVID-19 lockdown, with Australians also feeling concerned about how long it will take for life to return to “normal”.

The survey of nearly 4000 CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet online community members found that respondents are emerging from COVID-19 lockdown feeling their exercise (66 per cent), emotional wellbeing (41 per cent) and diet (36 per cent) had worsened to some degree, with two in five indicating they have gained weight during the outbreak.

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CSIRO Behavioural Scientist and report author Dr Emily Brindal described the findings as reflective of the challenges that millions of Australians are facing as they struggle to maintain wellbeing amidst a significant lifestyle shift.

“Our analysis found that the COVID-19 outbreak has negatively impacted respondents’ health and wellbeing,” Dr Brindal said.

“According to our research there are clearly concerns around social connectedness, with 90 per cent of respondents feeling that there has been a negative impact on their ability to socialise and celebrate special events.

“Increased concern about finances and the certainty of the future also featured strongly, as restrictions ease and respondents adjust to a new normal.”

Of the respondents who have gained weight during the COVID-19 outbreak, 61 per cent reported an increase in junk food consumption and 63 per cent reported an increase in snacking.

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The research also showed that some personality types are finding this time more challenging than others.

“Almost 60 per cent of respondents reported a negative shift in their overall satisfaction with life,” Dr Brindal said.

“This number was noticeably higher for those who were identified as highly extroverted, with this group seeing significant impact from the lack of social interaction.

“Those identified as highly emotional eaters also reported higher decreases in their average wellbeing levels than others.”

In light of the findings, today the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet launched a new and improved online program to now include positive psychology tools with a focus on boosting wellbeing and mood. Using the positive psychology research, the new online tools will help members to gain skills in optimistic thinking and guide them in daily practices that are scientifically validated to build positive emotions.

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“The survey findings indicate a clear need for something to give Australians a mood boost as they emerge from lockdown and adapt to the new normal,” Dr Brindal said.

“Lockdown has proven to be a time of both challenge and opportunity for Australians, with this ‘global pause’ allowing us to reset and rebuild as we look towards the future.

“The new wellbeing enhancement to the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet online lifestyle program will help Australians seeking reliable and trusted frameworks and support to help them improve their health and wellbeing during the current climate, and beyond.”

By Bianca Frew - CSIRO
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