10 risk factors to watch out for and consider during lock down:

  1. Increased alcohol consumption – 70% of Australians are currently drinking more alcohol than normal. Implications are a risk of dependence, liver toxicity and damage, reduced cognition, reduced capacity to spend time with family and take up hobbies, learning etc, and setting bad behaviours at home. Mitigants include limiting daily intake (current guidelines are a maximum of 10 standard drinks per week), having 2-3 alcohol free days each week at least, ensuring adequate nutrition and vitamins (take Vitamin B1 as a precaution) and talk to your GP about medication options or detox if you feel you need help.
  2. Mental health symptoms – 28% of quarantined folks warrant a diagnosis of “trauma-related mental health disorder”, according to one research study. Common symptoms of lock down include stress, low mood, insomnia, anger, irritability, emotional exhaustion, anxiety and depression. Mitigants include getting fresh air outside in the garden or going for a walk (by yourself or in pairs), exercising, social connection, getting help online (e.g. Beyond Blue) or talking to a Psychologist.
  3. Doubling of domestic violence – Reports overseas and in Australia have alerted to a rise in domestic harm, at the same time when many support services may be struggling for viability. If you or anyone you know is affected by domestic violence, please reach out to groups such as Lifeline, 1800RESPECT, safe steps, Kids Helpline, MensLine Australia, Suicide Call Back Service, Beyond Blue, Headspace, or ReachOut. Your GP and Clinical Psychologist at Osana can also help by accessing appropriate services, supporting you to manage any trauma, injuries and ongoing risk.
  4. Increased screen time – up by 70-80%. Whilst important for home schooling, work conferencing and social connection, the risks are sedentary behaviour, blue-light which impacts quality of sleep, less time outdoors and being active, and eye and neck strain, . Two hours of TV a day can increase weight gain, diabetes and heart disease risks. Manage this through setting timers, creating a routine for kids (at least 1-2 hours each day outdoors for example), and having substitute activities planned. Also, beware of keeping kids safe (online predators) and wifi risks (devices can get hot and affect local organs such as testicular/sperm function).
  5. Increased online gambling – by two-thirds in Australia. Although poorly policed, internet gambling in terms of online casinos and poker are prohibited under the Interactive Gambling Act in Australia, so not only may this be unhealthy for your health (addiction), your wallet (the house always wins and most of these sites are computer-automated including the other players), but you may be breaking the law. Our recommendation is to stay away from any gambling if you’re this way inclined; our Clinical Psychologist Mitchell Horwarth is a specialists on addictions if you need help.
  6. Snacking and grazing – has increased 40%. Snacking for convenience, comfort eating or out of boredom has serious health risks, including weight gain, higher risk of diabetes and raised cholesterol, physiological distress on your immune system (therefore less immunity during winter), and poor nutrition (snacks are often high calorie, low nutrient foods). Our tips include limiting amounts (shoot for less than 200 calories and at least 10 grams of protein per snack), limiting opportunities, and staying away from high sugar snacks. It could be as simple as distracting yourself for 10 minutes doing something else if you feel snackish.
  7. Social isolation. Unfortunately, home isolation is also unhealthy, despite current pandemic risks. Lack of social connection is  the equivalent risk of smoking 15 cigarettes a day or having an alcohol use disorder. Loneliness can increase the risk of stroke or coronary heart disease by 30%, increase the risk of dementia by 40%, and can result in depression, poor sleep, impaired cognitive function, and depressed immunity. Even in home quarantine, it’s vital we keep in touch with family and friends, especially those that live alone. Social isolation is associated with a 30% higher risk of death overall.
  8. Boredom. Staying at home with limitations on movements and activities can be boring (although it doesn’t have to be). Being bored in itself is risky, such as correlations with increased drug and alcohol abuse, overeating, depression and anxiety, and making mistakes. Making mistakes and losing attention is an interesting finding – an alarming study found that when co-pilots who woke up after a nap, 30% reported seeing the other pilot asleep too! Stay proactive and make use of this time for learning, virtual tours of museums, online concerts, catching with friends, reading books, picking up a new hobby or cooking new recipes.
  9. Reduced fitness – 60% less exercise in a study group in the UK. Whilst some are jumping online for exercise classes, buying gym equipment for the home and getting out and about with social distancing (cycling, walking), many others are feeling defeated by the stress of Covid-19 and succumbing to inactivity. Exercise is an universal prescription and adequate activity results in lower heart attack risk, better weight management, lower cholesterol and diabetes risk, lower blood pressure, stronger bones, less falls risk, and better mood and energy levels. It is particularly important during this winter period that everyone exercise best they can at home – it will improve your chances if you get Covid-19 or the flu.
  10. Lack of sleep – 64% reporting a lack of sleep and symptoms of fatigue. This has been associate with 48% of people in quarantine also working long and irregular hours. Worrying about Covid-19 and the challenges of working differently, or not working at all, and maintaining family and finances can all add up. Lack of sleep has direct health consequences, such as obesity, heart diseases, diabetes, lower life expectancy, poor mood, irritability and inability to focus or function properly (18 hours of being awake is approximately the same as an alcohol blood level of 0.05). Make sure you develop good sleep hygiene with regular hours, minimal caffeine and distractions, and finding ways to relax the mind and the body to get restful sleep.

References

  • https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-04-16/coronavirus-themed-alcohol-marketing-sparks-call-for-ban/12151912
  • https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/04/this-is-the-psychological-side-of-the-covid-19-pandemic-that-were-ignoring/
  • https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-03-29/coronavirus-family-violence-surge-in-victoria/12098546
  • https://www.adnews.com.au/news/the-coronavirus-lockdown-is-forcing-us-to-view-screen-time-differently
  • https://www.carewellurgentcare.com/2018/07/19/the-effects-too-much-screen-time-has-on-your-health/
  • https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/04/1061742
  • https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0013935118300355
  • https://www.asgam.com/index.php/2020/04/09/studies-show-dramatic-rise-in-online-gambling-during-covid-19-lockdowns/
  • https://www.theloop.ca/watch/life/food/americans-are-binge-eating-snacks-during-covid-19-crisis/6149341414001/1660977952457681249%20/the-social/
  • https://www.insider.com/too-much-snacking-harmful-body-2018-12
  • https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/snacking-good-or-bad#tips
  • https://lighthouse.mq.edu.au/article/april-2020/how-to-stop-covid-comfort-eating-and-change-your-bad-habits-forever
  • https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/04/200408102137.htm
  • https://www.apa.org/monitor/2019/05/ce-corner-isolation
  • https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1745691614568352
  • https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2012/oct/14/boredom-is-bad-for-health
  • https://www.icaew.com/insights/features/2020/apr-2020/tackling-physical-and-mental-health-issues-during-lockdown
  • https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/physical-activity-its-important
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