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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - SHARJAH — The preliminary results of the scientific study conducted last April by the Health Promotion Department (HPD) at the Supreme Council for Family Affairs Sharjah in cooperation with the University of Sharjah have shown that 39% of smokers decreased their smoking during the COVID-19 pandemic and 29.4% reported that their weight increased during the lockdown, while 32% have increased their food intake.
The study aims primarily to investigate the influence of COVID-19 lockdown on dietary behavior, lifestyle changes, and health practices. According to a web-based survey posted in Arabic and English on social media platforms, 98% of those surveyed believe that home isolation is a good way to protect their families and to stop the spread of infectious disease outbreaks and that 83% of people wore face masks and gloves when going out.
These findings reflect the extent of people’s awareness during this pandemic, thanks to the precautionary and preventive measures adopted by the UAE’s government since the emergence of COVID-19 pandemic.
The investigator team comprised Iman Rashid Saif, HPD director, Dr. Hadia Radwan, assistant professor, University of Sharjah, College of Health Sciences, Dr. Hayder Hassan, assistant professor, University of Sharjah, College of Health Sciences, Mahra Al Kitbi, master of public health and head of knowledge and performance division, HPD, Dr. Farah Naja, associate professor, American University of Beirut, Lebanon, and Marwa Al Hilali, dietitian, Al Qassimi Hospital, Sharjah.
Supporting national efforts
Commenting on the findings of the study, Saif said: “This study aims primarily to support the national efforts to fight COVID-19 pandemic by measuring the communal awareness and developing solutions and recommendations to enhance people’s health awareness about what behaviors they have to adopt during the crisis.”
It also aims to investigate to what extent the people are committed to healthy patterns, such as physical activity and healthy diet, so that further steps could be taken in the future to improve the quality of life, in line with the directives of Sheikha Jawaher Bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, wife of the ruler of Sharjah and chairperson of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs aimed at encouraging people to follow healthy lifestyles.
The HPD Director underlined that the preliminary results of the study showed the increased awareness among community members, where 79% of those surveyed were keen to sterilize the purchased food item during the lockdown and 84% of those who have children at home are encouraging them to do physical activity, from them only 25% on daily bases.
Dr. Radwan said: “The privacy and comprehensiveness of the data collected, as well as the timing of the study clearly reflect the practices of people during the pandemic. This will have important implications for the health of community members.”
She added that adjusting lifestyles and the healthy food would help boost the immunity system to combat viruses, mentioning that the study comes as part of the objectives of the University of Sharjah and the attention paid to the support and encouragement of scientific research, especially those meant to develop the UAE society.
“The findings of this study will be compared to the global data of nutrition and health fields to be used as a base for in-depth future studies,” she concluded.
50% increased their water intake
Among the 2,060 participants who were surveyed, 66.7% of them were obese or overweight, 56.6% were engaged in physical activity before home isolation, from them, 30% reduced their activity after the lockdown, while the rate of those sleeping over 7 hours increased from 63% to 70 since the lockdown.
As for eating habits and behaviors, 62% have increased their citrus intake during the COVID-19 pandemic, 50.2% increased their water intake, 38.4% started drinking herbal teas, and 94% think that extra intake of vitamins and minerals can strengthen the body against COVID-19.
Regarding the home isolation-related lifestyles, the study demonstrated that 67.2% feel more stressed during the lockdown, 42% of the society feels angry nowadays more than before, while the majority think that after lockdown their lifestyle will improve by 55%. — SG
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