This is what researchers from the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) say in a new edition of the Public Health Outlook, presented to Minister Hugo de Jonge today.
When it comes to healthy living, the researchers come to the following conclusions:
- Smokers have started to smoke more
- The number of overweight people is increasing
- We move less
- We drink the same amount of alcohol on average
Smokers and people who are overweight are more likely to become seriously ill after being infected with the corona virus, it has already been shown. Although the knowledge is still limited, everything indicates that on average our health is going in the wrong direction, says RIVM researcher Henk Hilderink.
Yet there is also a group that has succeeded in living a healthier life: 16 percent of the Dutch have lost weight. Hilderink: “This may have to do with working from home more often. It makes it easier for people to take control of what their day looks like. They are no longer stuck in a traffic jam, can play sports in between or just as easily go shopping.”
30 percent is heavier
The questionnaire survey also shows that almost 30 percent have arrived. “Immediately after the measures in April, 53 percent of people indicated that they were exercising less and 13 percent said that they were exercising more,” said Hilderink.
The cause for this is the corona measures we all have to deal with. “We have fewer options for exercise and sports.”
The trend among smokers is also striking. About 10 percent of smokers started smoking less during the crisis. “The closure of the catering industry can play a role in this. But on the other hand, you also see that 25 percent of smokers have started smoking more. This can be due to boredom, or also due to stress in people whose lives have become more insecure. . “
You see a similar pattern with alcohol, says Hilderink. “Some people drink less, but heavier drinkers have started to drink more.”
In 2018, the government signed the National Prevention Agreement with more than 70 civil society organizations. It contains more than 200 agreements to make the Netherlands healthier. For example, smoking, obesity and problematic alcohol consumption must be tackled.
But now that the problems have become worse due to the corona crisis, RIVM continues to advocate preventive measures, and preferably integrated prevention. “We are more aware of the importance of a healthy lifestyle. But it is important that policy does not only focus on individual lifestyle factors, but also on the physical environment and on social problems, such as debt and stress.”
Instead, it is necessary to think from different perspectives. “There has been a lot of attention for containment of the pandemic, but other effects on society are also important, such as mental health.”
The Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC), Erasmus MC and Amsterdam UMC released a study this week with the conclusion, among other things, that smokers and overweight people have a greater chance of a worse course of Covid-19.
The researchers also emphasized that an unhealthy lifestyle is by no means always the cause of obesity. “There are many other causes, such as social and medical factors.”
How important is healthy living?
If you live healthy, won’t you get sick? No, says Jaap Seidell, professor of Nutrition and Health at VU University Amsterdam. If you follow all those health advice, it doesn’t automatically mean you won’t get corona. “It all has to do with opportunity,” said Seidell.
“Your age is also a factor, for example. If you also smoke and have a malfunctioning immune system, the chances increase more and more.” A good immune system can therefore be an advantage for people who become infected with corona.
So you can certainly do something yourself to promote a positive reaction of your body to a virus. Seidell: “In order not to get corona, you can only keep your distance and not get infected. But whether you get serious consequences from the virus depends in part on your lifestyle.”
And that applies to everyone, thin, fat, young or old. “If public health is not in order, the impact of a virus is much greater. So we have to make the population more resilient. It is also very sensible for the government to invest in a resilient population for new, future viruses.”