Changes in Lifestyle and Body Weight in Children and Adolescents during the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Representative Survey of Parents in Germany

Susann Weihrauch-Blüher, Oliver Huizinga, Christine Joisten, Juliane Pflanz, Gabriel Torbahn, Susanna Wiegand, Christina Holzapfel, Hans Hauner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations

Abstract

Introduction: The public restrictions taken during the COVID-19 pandemic have substantially affected lifestyle and health behavior of children and adolescents. In Germany, little is known how these changes influenced daily life in families with children and adolescents. Methods: A cross-sectional survey was performed in April/May 2022 across Germany, similar to a survey performed in 2020. Parents (N = 1,004, 20-65 years) with at least one child aged 3-17 years filled in an online questionnaire released by the Forsa Institute for Social Research and Statistical Analysis. Fifteen questions related to eating habits, dietary patterns, physical activity, media consumption, fitness, mental health, and body weight were included, and standard socioeconomic parameters were assessed. Results: Parents' answers indicated that there was a parental self-reported weight gain in every sixth child since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. This was most obvious in children from families with lower household income and preexisting overweight. Parents also reported that lifestyle patterns had worsened: 70% reported an increase of media consumption during leisure time, 44% a decrease in daily physical activity, and 16% the worsening of dietary habits (e.g., 27% stated to eat more cake and sweets). Children aged 10-12 years were most severely affected. Conclusion: Negative health effects related to the COVID-19 pandemic are predominantly observed in children 10-12 years of age and in children from families with low household income, suggesting a worsening social disparity. Political action is urgently needed to tackle the adverse consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on childhood lifestyle and health.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)301-312
Number of pages12
JournalObesity Facts
Volume16
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 7 Jun 2023
Externally publishedYes

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