COVID-19: a social health recession
During the COVID-19 pandemic, saving lives is the highest priority, followed by limiting economic damage. However, emerging recognition of the global health and social legacy of the pandemic is now manifesting itself. Wang et al (2020) showed that non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are a major risk factor for people with COVID-19. A related concern is that 72% of all global deaths are due to NCDs— major contributors being tobacco and alcohol use, air pollution, unhealthy diets, and inadequate exercise (World Health Organization, 2018). NCD prevention and management are interconnected features of contemporary public health and COVID-19 heightens their significance.
There is emerging evidence of a COVID-19 global economic recession, whereas a ‘social health recession’ is less overtly stated. Enforced quarantine by physical distancing encourages behavioural risk factors for NCDs such as unhealthy eating, reduced physical activity, smoking tobacco, and harmful use of alcohol (Venema, 2020). Stickley and Koyanagi (2016) documented detrimental effects on mental wellbeing after long periods of isolation in quarantine for illness or custodial care. Indeed, lifestyle choices damaging to health are exacerbated by feelings of loneliness and isolation. The spread of COVID-19 and the measures to reduce its impact has encouraged NCDs, social isolation and loneliness to work in synergy.
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