A recent study conducted by the University College Dublin (UCD) Institute of Food and Health, in collaboration with Dublin City University (DCU), reported that 60% of young people exercised more frequently during lockdown. However, this age group were also more susceptible to gaining weight, as snacking and alcohol consumption increased.

Dr Emma Feening, Assistant Professor in Food, Science and Nutrition at UCD, told The Irish Times that the study shows “this relatively short period of time had a major impact on people’s lives”. The recent study looked at findings from an online survey of 4,000 participants, 83% of which were between the ages of 25 and 64, as well as findings from community and advocacy group interviews.

50% of the online survey respondents reported no change in eating habits, however, 40% of people reported eating more in lockdown and 42% of people reported snacking more regularly. 

30% of people surveyed reported gaining weight, however, there were some positive conclusions from the survey with 64% of people reporting they were consuming less takeaways than before. 60% of the youngest age group exercised more frequently, however, this number decreased in older age groups. 72% reported doing more home baking and yet again this was more evident amongst younger age groups. Older people’s food and activity patterns were far less affected than their younger counterparts. 

A worrying 20% of people were concerned about not having enough food. The findings from community and advocacy group interviews revealed vulnerable groups reported significant impacts on their lives due to lockdown. There was an increased cost of staying at home which became a daily struggle and stressor for vulnerable groups, families with children were particularly affected by the loss of school meal schemes. Vulnerable people reported an exacerbation of social stressors and many were worried about the effects of further social isolation if there were to be further waves of restrictions.

Speaking to The Irish Times, Dr Claire Timon, Research Fellow at the School of Nursing, Psychotherapy and Community Health in DCU, explained that the research conducted with advocacy groups highlighted the “increased pressure placed on service provisions such as meals on wheels and soup kitchens”. Increased pressure on service provision as social distancing procedures meant soup kitchens could only cater to a limited capacity. 

Adam O’Sullivan – Reporter