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Unintended Consequences of COVID-19 Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions (NPIs) for Population Health and Health Inequalities

ÓhAiseadha et al., International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, doi:10.3390/ijerph20075223 (Review)
ÓhAiseadha et al., Unintended Consequences of COVID-19 Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions (NPIs) for Population Health and Health.., International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, doi:10.3390/ijerph20075223 (Review)
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Review of studies on non-pharmaceutical interventions for COVID-19 showing negative impacts on mental health, physical activity, and obesity.
ÓhAiseadha et al., 23 Mar 2023, peer-reviewed, 7 authors.
Contact: coilin.ohaiseadha@hse.ie (corresponding author).
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AI generated summary. Current AI models can provide useful summaries for non-experts, but may be inaccurate and have limited ability to analyze larger context such as the entire evidence base for exercise.

Non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) implemented to control the spread of COVID-19 have had unintended consequences, including negative impacts on mental health, physical activity, and obesity.

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has led to the implementation of a wide range of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) in an effort to control the spread of the virus.
  • These NPIs have had a number of unintended consequences, including negative impacts on mental health, physical activity, and obesity.
  • The impacts of NPIs on alcohol and tobacco consumption have varied.
  • The variability in consequences for different groups implies increased health inequalities.
  • A proper assessment of the use of NPIs in attempts to control the spread of the pandemic should be weighed against the potential adverse impacts on other aspects of public health.

The article goes on to discuss the specific impacts of NPIs on mental health, physical activity, obesity, alcohol consumption, and tobacco smoking. It also discusses the implications of these findings for future pandemic preparedness and pandemic response teams.

The article concludes by stating that "the use of NPIs in attempts to control the spread of the pandemic should be carefully considered, with due regard for the potential adverse impacts on other aspects of public health."

The conclusion of the study matches the conclusion of most other studies on the unintended consequences of NPIs for population health. A systematic review of studies published in 2021 found that NPIs were associated with an increased risk of depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation. The review also found that NPIs were associated with a decrease in physical activity and an increase in body weight.

Unintended Consequences of COVID-19 Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions (NPIs) for Population Health and Health Inequalities
Coilín Óhaiseadha, Gerry A Quinn, Ronan Connolly, Awwad Wilson, Michael Connolly, Willie Soon, Paul Hynds
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, doi:10.3390/ijerph20075223
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, governments around the world have adopted an array of measures intended to control the transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, using both pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs). NPIs are public health interventions that do not rely on vaccines or medicines and include policies such as lockdowns, stay-at-home orders, school closures, and travel restrictions. Although the intention was to slow viral transmission, emerging research indicates that these NPIs have also had unintended consequences for other aspects of public health. Hence, we conducted a narrative review of studies investigating these unintended consequences of NPIs, with a particular emphasis on mental health and on lifestyle risk factors for non-communicable diseases (NCD): physical activity (PA), overweight and obesity, alcohol consumption, and tobacco smoking. We reviewed the scientific literature using combinations of search terms such as 'COVID-19 , 'pandemic', 'lockdowns', 'mental health', 'physical activity', and 'obesity'. NPIs were found to have considerable adverse consequences for mental health, physical activity, and overweight and obesity. The impacts on alcohol and tobacco consumption varied greatly within and between studies. The variability in consequences for different groups implies increased health inequalities by age, sex/gender, socioeconomic status, pre-existing lifestyle, and place of residence. In conclusion, a proper assessment of the use of NPIs in attempts to control the spread of the pandemic should be weighed against the potential adverse impacts on other aspects of public health. Our findings should also be of relevance for future pandemic preparedness and pandemic response teams.
Conflicts of Interest: The authors declare no conflict of interest. The funders had no role in the design of the study; in the collection, analyses, or interpretation of the data; in the writing of the manuscript; or in the decision to publish the results.
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