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Pandemic Lockdowns Tied to More Eating Disorder Symptoms

TUESDAY, March 30, 2021 -- COVID-19 lockdowns are associated with an increase in self-reported eating disorder symptoms, according to a study published in the April issue of Psychiatry Research.

Mike Trott, from Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, England, and colleagues examined the effect of COVID-19 quarantines on morbid exercise, eating, and body image behaviors compared to pre- and post-COVID-19 lockdown. The analysis included 319 participants (mean age, 36.77 years; 84 percent female) who completed a battery of questions with 14-month follow-up.

The researchers found that exercise addiction scores were significantly lower post-COVID-19 lockdown, whereas eating disorder symptomology scores were significantly higher. Leisure-time exercise significantly increased post-COVID-19 lockdown. There were no differences seen for body dysmorphic disorder.

"We can't say for certain that COVID-19 is responsible for this increase in behavior associated with eating disorders," Trott said in a statement. "However, we do know that people often use food as a coping mechanism for stress, and clearly many people have been impacted by stressful events and significant changes over the last 12 months."

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