Brazilians drank more, gained weight and exercised less during the pandemic

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During the year 2020, when Brazil spent more time in social isolation to stop the advance of the coronavirus, there was an increase in the abusive consumption of alcoholic beverages and in a sedentary lifestyle among the Brazilian population, which triggered an increase in the rate of people with chronic diseases. , such as obesity.

This is what the research Chronic Diseases and Its Risk and Protection Factors: Recent Trends in Vigitel, carried out by the Institute of Studies for Health Policies (IEPS) shows.

In 2019, obesity affected 20.3% of adults in the country’s capitals, but in 2020, the disease started to affect 21.5% of this group, with a higher prevalence in the South, Southeast and Northeast states.

Manaus (24.9%), Cuiabá (24.0%) and Rio (23.8%) lead the ranking with the highest incidence of obesity. Until 2011, no capital had exceeded 20%.

The national rate is almost double what was recorded 14 years earlier, in 2006, when only 11.8% of the population had this type of comorbidity.

The year marks the first time that the Surveillance of Risk and Protection Factors for Chronic Diseases by Telephone Survey (Vigitel) was carried out by the Ministry of Health, from which the IEPS data were extracted. 27,077 people were interviewed in this edition of the study.


Experts heard by Estadão Conteúdo say that the change in the lifestyle of Brazilians, caused by the pandemic, was decisive for the emergence – and even aggravation – of harmful habits to health, as well as psychic disorders that trigger other diseases.

Visual Arts student Isabella Stael, 19, attributes the increase in alcohol consumption in the pandemic to what she calls “psychological wear and tear”.

She says that alcohol is used as a refuge to relax and have fun amid the stress caused by covid and studies, without necessarily having a special occasion.

“To a large extent, my alcohol consumption is linked to relieving pressure and not having to think about the future,” she says.

“It’s also related to days when I’m very tired, or other days when the mental exhaustion is so great that I get frustrated because I can’t study properly and reach the end of the day wanting to drink”, adds the young woman.

Psychiatrist Guido Palomba, from the Associação Paulista de Medicina, sees a direct relationship between the pandemic and the high rate of chronic diseases.

For him, this occurs because people need to restrict locomotion and deal with overexposure to negative news, which triggers psychiatric disorders that contribute to the emergence of comorbidities.

The excessive demand for work created by the home office is also pointed out by Palomba as an inherent factor in the “new normal”, which encourages unhealthy habits.

“Food and alcohol are forms of gratification in bad times. Consequently, there is an increase in obesity, diabetes and heart problems”, he says.


Beatriz Rache, Master in Economics from Columbia University (USA) and author of the IEPS research, highlights the increase in health risk factors, such as the consumption of ultra-processed foods (cookies, chocolate, sausage, margarine, among others), in practically all research segments. Only smoking remained stable in 2020 compared to 2019.

On the other hand, the abusive consumption of alcohol went from 18.8% to 20.4%, the same scenario observed in relation to a sedentary lifestyle (from 13.9% to 14.9%).

“We see, between 2019 and 2020, a worsening of all behavioral risk indicators and, therefore, it is possible to associate it with the increase in obesity. Although Vigitel does not allow this correlation to be made, the data show that the pandemic seems to be associated with the results of 2020, a year of both economic and health stress”, says Beatriz.

President of the Brazilian Medical Association, César Fernandes highlights the importance of major awareness campaigns about the risks of inadequate nutrition and lack of physical activity.

“Many families have changed eating habits for the worse, with increased fat and calorie content. People began to serve themselves through delivery. As if that were not enough, they deprived themselves of usual physical activities, such as small daily walks”, he adds.

Reference: CNN Brasil

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