Two in five Americans gained weight during the pandemic

Those who gained weight report adding an average of 14.5 pounds

The author(s)
  • Catherine Morris Data Journalist
  • Chris Jackson Senior Vice President, US, Public Affairs
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Washington, DC, January 25, 2021 — The coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on Americans’ health and weight. Since the start of the pandemic, 37% of Americans say they gained weight, according to a new global Ipsos survey. On average, those who gained weight say they put on 14.5 pounds.

More Americans have gained weight than lost weight during the coronavirus pandemic

Across the United States, 37% of all Americans say they have gained weight since the start of the pandemic – 6 points above the global average of 31%. The United States ranks seventh from the top among all 30 countries surveyed in terms of total weight gain over the course of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, one in four Americans say they lost weight since the start of the pandemic (25%), 5 points above the global average of 20%.

Weight gain COVID

Close to one in three Americans are exercising more now than before the pandemic began

Since the pandemic began, 29% of Americans say they are exercising more, putting the nation right above the global average of 27%. Another 22% say they are exercising less, just shy of the global average of 23%.

Healthy eating, dieting and more exercise are at the top of the list for Americans trying to lose weight

Just over half of all Americans (51%) say they are actively trying to lose weight, while 31% are not trying to lose or gain weight, and 6% are trying to gain weight.

Among those who are trying to lose weight, healthier diets and more exercise are the most common steps they are taking. More than half (54%) of those trying to lose weight say they are eating more healthily, but not dieting; 54% are dieting or reducing the amount they eat; and 50% are exercising more. Another 42% are drinking fewer sugary drinks and 17% say they are drinking less alcohol. Just 5% say they are doing none of these.

A majority of Americans want to lose weight, but the pandemic is not the driving reason why

Most Americans view COVID-19 as a factor, but not the motivating factor, behind why they want to lose weight (79%). Just 10% say that concerns about COVID are their main motivator.

Americans think regular exercise, giving up smoking and vitamin D supplements are most effective measures for lessening their chances of suffering severe COVID symptoms

Just under half of all Americans (47%) believe that there is a link between obesity and worsened COVID health outcomes. Another 22% believe that there is no connection, while 31% are unsure. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control, obesity does increase the risk of suffering more severe COVID symptoms. Being overweight might increase the risk as well.

As for what measures Americans believe would be the top one or two most effective means of mitigating more severe COVID symptoms, roughly the same number point to regular exercise (33%), giving up smoking (31%) and Vitamin D supplements (30%). Another 19% say losing weight and 8% giving up alcohol would be effective.

COVID symptoms

For full results, please refer to the first and second global reports on diet and weight during the COVID pandemic.

About the Study

These are the results of a 30-market survey conducted by Ipsos on its Global Advisor online platform. Ipsos interviewed a total of 22,008 adults between October 23 and November 6, 2020.

The survey was conducted via the Ipsos Online Panel system in the following markets: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, Sweden, Turkey and the United States.

The samples in some markets (e.g., Brazil, mainland China or India) are more urban, more educated, and/or more affluent than the general population. The survey results for such markets should be viewed as reflecting the views of the more “connected” segment of their population.

The data is weighted so that each market’s sample composition best reflects the demographic profile of the adult population according to the most recent census data.

Where results do not sum to 100 or the ‘difference’ appears to be +/-1 more/less than the actual, this may be due to rounding, multiple responses, or the exclusion of “don't know” or not stated responses.

Each market has a sample of 1,000 or 500 interviews. The precision of Ipsos online polls is calculated using a credibility interval with a poll of 1,000 accurate to +/- 3.5 percentage points and of 500 accurate to +/- 5.0 percentage points. For more information on Ipsos' use of credibility intervals, please visit the Ipsos website.

The publication of these findings abides by local rules and regulations.

The author(s)
  • Catherine Morris Data Journalist
  • Chris Jackson Senior Vice President, US, Public Affairs