To say that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed Americans’ lives would be an understatement. Even among those who haven’t been directly affected by the coronavirus, the lifestyle changes required to stay safe mean that for many, life today looks nothing like it did a year ago.
To find out what lifestyle changes Americans are most troubled by, we asked 1,500 respondents what quarantine habit they were most unhappy to have developed since the beginning of the pandemic.
Americans Are Most Unhappy With Exercise and Tech Hygiene Habits
The top two habit selections among respondents were “not enough exercise” (18%) and “too much screen time” (17%).
Second to the effects of actual infection of individuals and loved ones, the most widespread consequence of the pandemic has been the institution of widespread stay-at-home orders that have led to mass quarantines across the country. It makes sense, then, that the habits formed during this time would include a decrease in activity normally undertaken outside the house and an increase in activity indoors.
Health researchers are already concerned about the long-lasting effects of increased technology usage over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. Studies throughout Europe, Canada, and China have found that screen time has increased from 50% to 80% in individuals of all ages. One UK study found that participants had an average of 7.2 hours of screen time during the pandemic.
Existing evidence shows that excessive screen time is associated with poor heart health, weight issues, depression, sleep disorders, and more. So practicing good tech hygiene is just as important to staying healthy as getting enough exercise, sleep, and proper nutrition.
Few Americans Unhappy With Drinking or Spending
The least common negative habits selected were “drinking too much” and “spending too much,” at just 5% of respondents each.
For many, spending has been easier to control while at home since lockdowns have zeroed out budget line items like commuting costs, office lunches, and work clothes.
It may come as a surprise that drinking too much was not a more popular selection among respondents, given that alcohol sales skyrocketed at the beginning of lockdowns in March of 2021. However, research shows overall consumption didn’t increase nearly as much, with 3 in 4 adults drinking just one day more per month than normal.
The same study also found that 39% of women surveyed reported an increase in “physical, social, intrapersonal, impulsive, and interpersonal problems related to drinking.” This suggests that respondents who chose other habits, like a lack of exercise or time outdoors, may also be struggling with increased drinking but are feeling greater negative impacts from other quarantine lifestyle changes.
Many people are struggling with the development of bad habits or slacking off on positive routines as a result of the changes pandemic life has brought. As vaccine administration continues, 2021 will see more opportunities for Americans to reincorporate old routines like outdoor exercise, safe socialization, and less time spent indoors.
While quarantine habits may be frustrating, it’s important to remember that they’re developed as a means of coping with the mental and emotional strain of living through a pandemic, and they’re perfectly natural.