How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected physical activity, sleep, alcohol consumption and tobacco use in Australian adults?

Bottom Line:

This study found that the COVID-19 pandemic was associated with changes in physical activity, stress, depression, sleep quality, smoking rates in current smokers, and alcohol intake in many people.


Stanton, R. et al. Depression, Anxiety and Stress During COVID-19: Associations With Changes in Physical Activity, Sleep, Tobacco and Alcohol Use in Australian Adults. Int J Environ Res Public Health (2020).

Date Published:

7 June 2020


This study included data from a survey of 1491 Australian adults, and found that almost half of the respondents decreased their physical activity after the COVID-19 outbreak. However, about 20% of the respondents indicated an increase in physical exercise. Females were found to have significantly greater stress as compared to males. It was found that individuals aged 18-45 years were seen to have increased scores for depression, anxiety and stress when compared to older adults. Individuals with lower income were also found to have increased depression scores when compared to those with higher incomes. Just over 40% of survey respondents indicated a negative change in their sleep quality, which may be attributable to increased psychological distress due to the outbreak, in addition to other concerns. As well, for those who were smokers prior to the outbreak, 49.9% reported that they increased their smoking behaviour. Finally, approximately one quarter of respondents increased their alcohol consumption, which may be an indication of a coping mechanism for increased stress due to the pandemic. Ultimately, increased strategies to promote health, positive behaviours, and improved well-being may be beneficial for the overall population.

Summary by: Max Solish