Key metrics for physical health, including obesity, diabetes and eating habits, have worsened after the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a Gallup poll released on December 14.

The number of respondents Gallup classifies as obese (38.4%) has increased by 6% since 2019. In addition, 13.6% of respondents report a diabetes diagnosis by a medical professional, a 1.1% increase since 2019. Both are record highs.

While exercise habits remain unchanged, healthy eating habits have worsened. The percentage of adults who reported healthy eating habits has declined from 51.7% to 46.7% since 2019. The percentage of adults aged 30 to 44 who reported healthy eating habits is down 9.2 percentage points. There was no “statistically meaningful decline” for those under thirty surveyed. 

The number of U.S. adults who consume at least five servings of fruit and vegetables is also down across all age groups since 2019: aged 18 to 29, 42.8% in 2019 to 38.8% in 2023; aged 33 to 44, 47.8% in 2019 to 39.3% in 2023; aged 45 to 64, 50.5% in 2019 to 40% in 2023; aged 65 and older, 56.3% in 2019 to 48.7% in 2023. Only 42% of respondents say they had at least five servings of fruits and vegetables on at least four days the previous week.

“Much of the recent increase in obesity may be associated with modified health behaviors resulting from the pandemic,” Dan Witters, a consultant and analyst for Gallup, writes. “While exercise rates have managed to remain intact, eating habits nationally have eroded substantially since 2019, underscoring an urgency for communities, organizations and government agencies alike to reinvigorate healthy eating priorities. These can include making healthy eating options easier by adding healthier choices to restaurant menus, business cafeterias and school lunchrooms, as well as moving health food markets to the front of grocery stores.”

To read the full report, click here.

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