Munich Personal RePEc Archive

COVID-19 Pounds: Quarantine and Weight Gain

Hasanzadeh, Samira and Alishahi, Modjgan (2020): COVID-19 Pounds: Quarantine and Weight Gain.

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In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries, including the U.S., set a mandatory stay-at-home order in attempts to avert the spread. Although the primary goal of such a policy is to protect societies and save lives, it might result in other potential physical and psychological health threats. This paper examines the impact of stay-at-home policies on people’s health behaviours towards weight gain and probable obesity attributable to imposing the order. Using Google Trends data, we investigate whether the lockdowns that were implemented in the U.S. led to changes in weight-gain-related online search behaviours. To probe the causal link between lockdown policies and changes in weight-gain-related topics, we employ the differences-in-differences method and regression discontinuity design and we find a significant increase in the search intensity for workout and weight loss, while the search intensity for fitness, nutrition, and fast food appears to have declined. Our results from using event study regression suggest that changes in health behaviours began weeks before lockdown orders were implemented contemporaneously with emergency declarations and other partial closures about COVID-19. The findings suggest that people’s health-related behaviours regarding weight gain were affected by the lockdowns.

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