Around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many lifestyle and health habits to change, as public health and governmental measures impose restrictions to limit spread of the disease. Economic and societal changes have followed.
But how have the health and lifestyle habits of individuals changed because of the COVID-19 pandemic?
The team at Wellsource decided to find out. We reviewed the health risk assessment (HRA) results of more than 4,200 individuals who completed the WellSuite IV HRA in 2019 and again in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. We've also compared the findings of our data to results from various formal surveys conducted by organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Kaiser Family Foundation.
One high-level finding? By comparing our HRA data to the larger population, we were able to see that our HRA participants benefited in some way from access to a wellness program—and to the Wellsource HRA, and have therefore received some educational materials about their health habits year-over-year.
Check out some of the highlights from our report below, then download the COVID-19 Data Brief to get the in-depth analysis.
COVID-19 Impacts on Overall Wellness and Mental Health
While data from organizations such as the CDC and Kaiser Family Foundation indicate that, in general, individuals are struggling with their overall health and wellness (including mental health) during this time, our data suggests that HRA participants are trending toward more healthful lifestyles.
- Increased overall wellness score – On average in 2019, the population had an overall wellness score of 70.0. In 2020, during COVID-19, that score increased to 70.7. While this 0.7 may not seem significant, statistically speaking, it's a big deal.
- Increased mental health score — The 2019 average score from mental health was 79.4, and increased in 2020 to 80.2— a .8 margin.
To understand these figures, it’s important to understand that our HRA scores wellness by asking a series of questions that cover many dimensions of wellness. Each response to a question across categories that cover nutrition, fitness, and more is weighted to reflect the answer’s impact on overall health in conjunction with the other responses they provide. Once the responses are tallied, the closer the score is to 100, the better the individual’s health in that category.
Some of the specific lifestyle and health habits that contributed to the rise in overall wellness scores include:
- Individuals getting more sleep in 2020 – without increasing their sedentary hours.
- Individuals participating in more vigorous exercise, without increasing overall the number of exercise minutes per week.
Prior to evaluating the data, our team assumed that the number of sedentary hours per day might have increased drastically during the pandemic as more people are working from home. However, that number surprisingly held steady year over year. Another interesting result was that while the number of hours spent exercising didn't grow from year to year, the intensity of the workouts did. This could indicate that while people aren't necessarily making more time to workout but are pushing themselves harder during those workouts.
These higher overall wellness and mental health scores seem to indicate that HRA participants are remaining more wellness-focused during a time when the greater population is generally experiencing a decrease in their overall wellness and mental health.
The Importance of Tracking Your Population’s Health During COVID-19
The Kaiser Family Foundation’s survey found that – unsurprisingly – the negative impact on mental health has dramatically increased from March 2020 to August 2020. At the beginning of the pandemic, 32% of respondents indicated that their mental health was negatively impacted, whereas, by August, that number had grown to 53%. As the winter months bear down on us and with even more passage of time, that number may increase again.
Although overall health and wellness scores in our data aren’t reflecting a negative trend in the early months of the pandemic, it doesn’t mean the population isn’t at risk. It’s important to note that some metrics – such as individuals getting more sleep – could be indicative of a positive or negative change, depending on the individual’s specific circumstances. For example, those getting more sleep may be doing so because they don’t have a daily commute. Others, however, may be sleeping more than usual as a symptom of anxiety and/or depression.
Use the data you collect to identify the people on both sides of the average—such as those sleeping significantly more this year, or those with significantly lower mental wellness scores. Target interventions and wellness programs to those populations.
This pandemic has made it clear that tracking your population’s health and well-being over time in important. A quality HRA can ensure you collect reliable data in a way that reduces bias and allows you to dig deeper into specific segments of your population and their health risks.
Dive deeper into our findings — download the Wellsource COVID-19 Data Brief.