Pandemic stress saw increase in potentially addictive behaviours: study
A recent study with a Canadian connection has found that people gamed, overate and shopped more often — among other potentially addictive behaviours — as a result of the initial stress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The study by the University of Guelph, as well as the Humboldt University of Berlin's psychology institute, found instances of shopping, alcohol use, smoking, legal and illegal substance use, gambling, gaming and overeating all increased gradually for two months beginning in March 2020, when the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, before gradually falling by month five.
The results were all self-reported over a six-month period and involved 1,430 adults from the United States.
The researchers say the study, to their knowledge, is the first to look at multiple, potentially addictive behavioural problems simultaneously over an extended period of time.
The study was published in the Journal of Behavioural Addictions in December 2021.
"It's only natural to expect that people would experience distress as COVID cases rose and the lockdown was in place," Sunghwan Yi, a professor in the Gordon S. Lang School of Business and Economics at Guelph University, said in a news release.
DISTRESS AND BEHAVIOUR
The researchers used self-reported online questionnaires in an Amazon survey database known as MTurk.
Between March 26 and Oct. 2, 2020, they asked participants about their engagement in the eight potentially addictive behaviours listed and asked them to gauge their level of stress caused by COVID-19.
Groups of 25 participants were sampled every three days over 191 days.
Of the 1,430 people surveyed, 562 were women and 858 were men. Seven participants did not identify with any gender and three did not answer. The average age was about 37.
The researchers found the increase in addictive behaviours was connected to how intense people's distress was during COVID-19 lockdown.
This was especially the case for those engaging in legal drug use, gambling and overeating.
The most common addictive activities reported for men were gaming, while for women it was excessive shopping.
The researchers note that although shopping increased for women, this may be because women normally tend to do more household shopping. The study also didn’t distinguish between impulse or compulsive buying and purchases such as home renovations, which generally aren't considered potentially addictive.
And although the behaviours examined did decline after about five months as COVID-19 cases dropped and lockdown measures were lifted, possibly resulting in less pandemic-related stress, the researchers say these newly acquired behaviours may have lingered for some.
"If you drank daily during that period, you are probably likely to keep drinking, although maybe slightly less or less often," Yi said. "It will be hard to suddenly reduce your drinking."
ACCESS TO SERVICES
Although the links weren't unexpected, Yi says people are known to experience distress when faced with an unfamiliar and threatening situation.
The researchers write that the study helps increase the understanding of prolonged distress, both related and unrelated to the pandemic.
While self-reported behaviours such as substance use or overindulging can't be considered addictions on their own, the researchers say they may serve as proxies to "truly problematic behaviour."
"When people experience distress, they are less likely to engage in constructive behaviours like building something or something job-related or reading," Yi said. "Their first response is to escape distress."
It also takes time and effort to develop ways of constructively dealing with a situation such as pandemic self-isolation, Yi says.
"Engaging in addictive behaviour is an easy way out of distress since this doesn't require a lot of preparation or effort."
He says the initial lockdown also exposed gaps in access to counselling and mental health services, with behaviours such as excessive drinking, gambling and shopping proving to be easy ways to de-stress for many.
Some, he added, are losing control over these behaviours more easily, especially without the support of friends and family, but may benefit from check-ins by volunteer groups.
"We need to pay greater attention to those people spending suddenly available time alone," Yi said.
He and his fellow co-authors are calling for better health screening, especially for people with mental health disorders who may not have access to counselling or other services.
MORE HEALTH NEWS
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
Students trapped inside a classroom with a gunman repeatedly called 911 during this week's attack on a Texas elementary school, including one who pleaded, 'Please send the police now,' as nearly 20 officers waited in the hallway for more than 45 minutes, authorities said Friday.
As Johnny Depp's high-profile libel lawsuit against ex-wife Amber Heard wound down, Heard took her final opportunity on the stand to comment on the hate and backlash she’s endured online during the trial.
A new report says Ottawa, Vancouver and Toronto rank among the top 20 cities around the world when it comes to work-life balance.
Federal Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino will table new firearms legislation on Monday, according to his colleague Justice Minister David Lametti. In an interview with CTV's Question Period that will air on Sunday, Lametti pointed to the advance notice given to the House of Commons, and confirmed the plan is to see the new bill unveiled shortly after MPs return to the Commons on May 30.
An 11-year-old survivor of the Robb Elementary School massacre in Uvalde, Texas, feared the gunman would come back for her so she smeared herself in her friend's blood and played dead.
Canada has tapped into its own strategic stockpile of emergency medical supplies -- stored for a national emergency -- to help Ukraine. It has donated over 375,000 items of medical equipment and medicines from Canada's strategic stockpile since the invasion by Russia began.
Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, more commonly known as 'broken heart syndrome' or stress-induced cardiomyopathy, is an actual medical condition triggered by severe emotional or physical stress and is different from a heart attack.
After a six-week trial in which Johnny Depp and Amber Heard tore into each other over the nasty details of their short marriage, both sides told a jury the exact same thing Friday -- they want their lives back.
With 26 cases of monkeypox now confirmed in Canada, health officials warn that number will likely grow in the coming days and weeks. However, one expert says the outbreak can be stopped if the country works quickly to get it under control.
Canada's highest court has ruled that Alexandre Bissonnette, who murdered six people at the Quebec City mosque in 2017, will be eligible for parole after 25 years.
A lawyer for families of victims killed in the Nova Scotia mass shooting says an 18-hour delay in finding five bodies of those murdered is a sign of "deficient" policing.
A judge has denied bail for a man charged with conspiracy to commit murder at a border blockade in southern Alberta.
New video has emerged showing the moment a tornado touched down in Uxbridge, Ont. over the weekend, ripping the roof off a local brewery.
A mother and sister known for baking decadent pastries. A restaurant worker buying his 3-year-old's birthday cake. A father and die-hard Buffalo Bills fan who worked as a school bus aide.
A federal judge on Friday dismissed Donald Trump's lawsuit against New York Attorney General Letitia James, rejecting the former president's claim that she targeted him out of political animus and allowing her civil investigation into his business practices to continue.
Fire that killed 11 newborn babies in Senegal hospital may have been started by short circuit, says minister
A hospital fire that killed 11 newborn babies in Senegal may have been caused by an electrical short circuit, the country's health minister said Thursday.
The Al Jazeera news network says it will submit a case file to the International Criminal Court on the killing of reporter Shireen Abu Akleh, who was shot dead earlier this month during an Israeli raid in the occupied West Bank.
Iran's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard seized two Greek oil tankers Friday in helicopter-launched raids in the Persian Gulf, officials said. The action appeared to be retaliation for Athens' assistance in the U.S. seizure of crude oil from an Iranian-flagged tanker this week in the Mediterranean Sea over violating Washington's crushing sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
The federal government posted a deficit of $95.6 billion for its 2021-22 fiscal year.
The World Health Organization says nearly 200 cases of monkeypox have been reported in more than 20 countries not usually known to have outbreaks of the unusual disease, but described the epidemic as 'containable' and proposed creating a stockpile to equitably share the limited vaccines and drugs available worldwide.
Health experts say that the monkeypox virus isn’t likely to have a similar impact to SARS-CoV-2, mainly because it isn’t a new virus and doesn’t spread the same way.
A lush green forest in southern Chile might be home to the world's oldest tree after a new study found that an ancient alerce tree known as 'great grandfather' could be more than 5,000 years old.
Paris Hilton has recently embraced two buzzy but speculative trends in tech: the metaverse, a vision for an immersive virtual world that still does not exist; and non-fungible tokens, known as NFTs, which refer to pieces of digital content linked to the blockchain, the digital ledger system underpinning various cryptocurrencies.
Circumhorizontal arcs put on a colourful show in parts of the Maritimes Thursday.
This week, pop culture critic Richard Crouse reviews new movies: 'Top Gun: Maverick,' 'The Bob’s Burgers Movie' and 'The Middle Man.'
Defence lawyers told a Toronto jury Friday that Jacob Hoggard may have been cavalier and disrespectful towards women, but the Canadian musician is not a 'sadistic serial rapist.'
Moscow pressed the West on Thursday to lift sanctions against Russia over the war in Ukraine, seeking to shift the blame for a growing food crisis that has been worsened by Kyiv's inability to ship millions of tons of grain and other agricultural products due to the conflict.
Dropping consumer confidence numbers show that Canadians are growing increasingly anxious about the direction of the economy, said Nanos Research pollster Nik Nanos.
Aurora Cannabis Inc.'s share price fell by about 40 per cent, after the company announced it sold US$150 million worth of shares.
Fifty-eight-year-old Vivian Ketchum is set to receive her high school diploma at a graduation ceremony at the University of Winnipeg next month. It is a moment that is decades in the making.
Crossword-loving grandma who thought she won $5,000 realized her lotto prize was actually a lot larger
A recent lottery winner excitedly told her daughter she was suddenly $5,000 richer. She was wrong.
Hockey Canada and the Canadian Hockey League have reportedly settled a lawsuit with a woman who claimed she was sexually assaulted by eight members of the 2018 Canadian world junior hockey team.
The Edmonton Oilers defeated their Alberta rival Calgary Flames 5-4 in overtime in Game 5 of their second-round NHL playoff series Thursday night to advance to the Western Conference final.
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers released veteran receiver Jalen Saunders earlier this week after investigating an allegation of sexual assault against him.
Jeep has come out with a new three-row large SUV, the Grand Wagoneer. It dusts off a nameplate not used since the early 1990s and stands as the brand's most expensive and luxurious model.
IndyCar will become the first North American racing series to use 100 per cent renewable fuel in its race cars.
At Indy, where culture is traditionally steeped in bricks more than bitcoin, the shift to cryptocurrency sponsorship may still be a curious concept to the almost 300,000 fans who will pack the track Sunday. But inside the paddock -- and locker rooms around the sports world - new forms of digital money help pay the bills and salaries for teams and athletes.