Possible favorable lifestyle changes owing to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic among middle-aged Japanese women: An ancillary survey of the TRF-Japan study using the original “Taberhythm” smartphone app

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PLoS One. 2021 Mar 25;16(3):e0248935. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0248935. eCollection 2021.


Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has had a global effect on people’s lifestyles. Many people have become physically inactive and developed irregular eating patterns, which leads to unhealthier lifestyles and aggravation of lifestyle-related diseases; these in turn increase the severity of COVID-19. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, we developed a smartphone application called “Taberhythm” to investigate eating patterns, physical activity, and subjective feelings of happiness. We aimed to compare lifestyle data before and during the first phase of the COVID-19 pandemic to objectively assess lifestyle changes during quarantine. A total of 464 smartphone users (346 women, 35 ± 12 years old, body mass index [BMI] 23.4 ± 4.5) participated in Period A (January 7 to April 28, 2019) and 622 smartphone users (533 women, 32 ± 11 years old, BMI 23.3 ± 4.0) participated in Period B (January 6 to April 26, 2020). Compared with Period A, there was a sharp decline in physical activity during Period B (4642 ± 3513 vs. 3814 ± 3529 steps/day, p<0.001), especially during the final 9 weeks in both periods (4907 ± 3908 vs. 3528 ± 3397 steps/day, p<0.001); however, there were large variations in physical activity among participants. We found a surprising trend during Period B toward increased happiness among women aged 30-50 years, the group most affected by stay-at-home policies that led to working from home and school closure. Moreover, daily eating duration declined in this population. Additionally, there was a positive association of happiness with steps per day in Period B (ρ = 0.38, p = 0.02). Despite the many negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, subjective feelings of happiness among middle-aged Japanese women tended to increase, which indicates that some favorable lifestyle changes that could be adopted during quarantine in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

PMID:33765024 | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0248935