Globally, people are feeling the effects of Covid-19 Picture: Pexels
Globally, people are feeling the effects of Covid-19 Picture: Pexels

More South Africans suffering from anxiety, overeating and under-exercising due to Covid-19

By Viwe Ndongeni-Ntlebi Time of article published Jun 3, 2020

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Anxiety, overeating and under-exercising, insomnia and depression are all seen as problems arising as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown in South Africa.

Only three in every ten online South Africans (30 percent) indicated that they do not suffer from any of the listed conditions. Males were slightly less open to answering the question than females were.

These are the results of an Ipsos survey conducted May 7-10, 2020 on the Global Advisor online platform among 16 000 adults aged 18-74 in Canada and the United States and 16-74 in Australia, Brazil, China, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, India, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, South Korea and the United Kingdom.

The global poll indicated that more people across 16 countries said they felt that they are suffering from not exercising enough and from anxiety. About one-third of the respondents in 10 countries said they are under-exercising because of Covid-19, with this sentiment highest in Japan (38 percent), South Korea (37 percent), Italy (33 percent), China (31 percent), Mexico and Russia (30 percent). 

Professor Stewart Shankman, chief of psychology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, USA said: “We also know that physical activity has important cardiovascular and health benefits, including supporting our body's natural immune system. Thus, the high rate of under-exercising will actually hinder our ability to fight any virus it comes in contact with.”

The second most cited health concern on the international list is anxiety, with at least a quarter of people in 11 countries saying they are suffering from it because of the pandemic. Respondents in Brazil (41 percent), Mexico (35 percent), Russia and South Africa (32 percent) and Canada (29 percent) are more likely to say this.

Shankman said the pandemic is fraught with uncertainty  ̶  about how long it will last, who will catch it and uncertainty is one of the biggest precipitants of anxiety.

Globally, sleep is becoming a problem, making the #cantsleep trend on Twitter for the past few weeks, and Google searches for "insomnia" hit a record high.

In the poll, overeating and insomnia were reported as the next two down the list of ailments that people are suffering from. Respondents in Brazil (39 percent) were most likely to say they are overeating. Followed by South Africa and Mexico (29 percent), Canada (28 percent) and the United Kingdom (25 percent). Those in Mexico (38 percent), Brazil (26 percent), Spain and South Africa (25 percent) were most likely to say they’re suffering from insomnia.

Cathy Wong, a certified nutrition specialist recommends the following methods for treating insomnia naturally:

Lifestyle changes

Daily exercise and regular sleep patterns can help improve sleep quality, as it does with health in general. In terms of diet, sleep can benefit from magnesium-rich foods such as dark leafy green vegetables, legumes and seeds, and wheat bran; as well as foods rich in vitamin B6, such as bananas.

Relaxation training

There are several relaxation training programs available today. Some involve progressive muscle relaxation. Others include mindful meditation, hypnosis, or guided imagery. Mashable published a good list a while back.

Cut down on caffeine, alcohol and  sugar 

One should especially try to avoid consuming caffeine before sleep. Note that cough medicine contains caffeine, and thus could be a contributing factor.

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