*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on HealthDay.
When the coronavirus pandemic started, many people began baking banana bread and sourdough loaves at home. Stress eating is nothing new, and 2020 was a year filled with angst for a lot of people.
But researchers at the University of Southern California (USC), Los Angeles, wondered, “Are college-aged people overeating, too?” According to their new study, the answer is “yes.”
The scientists used data from an ongoing study that included participants’ weight in October 2018 and 2019, then again in May and July 2020. The researchers found that nearly half of the 1,820 students who were surveyed were using food to cope with the pandemic.
“I think, for many, it is a coping mechanism to deal with negative feelings, social isolation, also coping with boredom,” said study author Tyler Mason, an assistant professor in the department of preventive medicine at USC. “In our study, we found that women were more likely to engage in these behaviors. And we also found that people who had previously had higher depression were more likely to engage in these coping behaviors.”
The study participants completed a checklist of coping mechanism behaviors that included “eating more food than usual” and “eating high-fat or sugary foods.”
About 48% of the study participants reported one or more unhealthy eating behaviors. The use of food to cope with the pandemic was also associated with weight gain, especially for young adults with a higher starting weight. This could have a long-term impact on their weight trajectories, the researchers noted.
The research was published online recently in the Journal of Adolescent Health.