Many Americans have changed their day-to-day habits due to the coronavirus pandemic, and some of those habits can have serious health implications. ValuePenguin's latest survey has found that 1 in 4 Americans are sleeping less, while 1 in 5 are drinking more alcohol.
ValuePenguin in early October surveyed more than 2,000 Americans to better understand health habits and how they're changing due to the pandemic. Here's what we learned.
- More than 1 in 4 Americans are getting less sleep amid the coronavirus pandemic. Additionally, 64% of consumers aren't getting at least seven hours of sleep a night, up 16% from February and March, when ValuePenguin asked respondents the same question.
- Nearly 3 in 10 millennials (28%) are drinking more alcohol during the pandemic than prior to it, as are a quarter of men. Overall, 22% said they're drinking more often.
- 19% of consumers say using tobacco is their unhealthiest habit, followed by not getting enough sleep (18%) and not getting enough exercise (16%).
- 49% of consumers say they're practicing healthier habits now than they were prior to the pandemic. Though sleep habits have declined, more are eating vegetables and avoiding fast food.
Pandemic leads to decreased sleep and increased alcohol and TV consumption
Our survey showed that 26% of people are sleeping less than they did before the coronavirus crisis, although 4 in 10 said there was no change in their sleep patterns.
Further, 64% said they've been sleeping fewer than seven hours a night, which is 16% higher than reported by our late February and early March survey. Generation X is losing the most sleep, at 30%.
Despite sleeping less, respondents said they're consuming alcohol and television at rates higher than before the coronavirus crisis. In fact, 57% of respondents reported watching more TV, and 22% said they've been drinking alcohol more frequently. Nearly a third of parents with children younger than 18 said they've been drinking more.
Generation Zers (62%) are watching TV the most during the pandemic. Meanwhile, millennials (28%) are drinking alcohol the most, with Generation Xers (26%) closely behind.
Consumers report their unhealthiest habits
Since the start of the pandemic, many Americans have lost access to gyms and other means of maintaining their body and health. Our survey shows that 74% of people aren't getting at least two hours of exercise a week, compared with 69% in our survey earlier this year.
With hospitals and doctor's offices having limited availability due to the pandemic, fewer people have been getting checkups. In fact, another recent ValuePenguin survey found that 6 in 10 consumers have skipped or put off a medical appointment during the pandemic, with 26% of people skipping their annual visit with their physician.
"During a pandemic, it can be easy to break habits and disregard your health," said Sterling Price, a ValuePenguin insurance expert. "However, these mistakes can compound into larger problems if not caught quickly. For this reason, individuals should avoid skipping checkups and physicals."
Although 74% of respondents believe they live an at least somewhat healthy lifestyle, 75% reported that they're worried about their health to some extent. In fact, 77% of millennials and baby boomers are worried about their health. Men (79%) are more worried about their health than women (72%).
Other risky health habits that Americans have been engaging in include:
Nearly half of Americans say their health habits have improved
Although Americans are getting less sleep, 49% of respondents said their health habits have improved during this pandemic, with 57% of men expressing better health habits.
Americans — 45%, in fact — are eating more fruits and vegetables than before the pandemic. Men have shown the most change in their diets, with 52% saying they're eating more produce. Additionally, 47% of respondents said they're eating less fast food now, making room for home-cooked meals or healthier alternatives. To supplement a healthier diet, 41% said they're taking more vitamins now than prior to the coronavirus crisis.
To pair with a healthier diet, 39% are exercising more often. However, another 22% are exercising less often. Further, as we noted, the percentage of people who don't get at least two hours of exercise weekly has risen compared to late February and early March.
Additionally, fewer people are deciding to go to work while sick, with only 12% saying they'd take the risk, compared with 22% who said this in our earlier survey. However, the growing ability to work from home has played a role in this decrease.
Deeper look at health habits by generation, gender
Millennials (58%) most believe their health habits have gotten better. Here's a look at the other generations:
On the other hand, about a quarter of respondents believe they don't lead healthy lifestyles, and 1 in 10 believe their health habits have gotten worse since the start of the pandemic, with 15% of Generation Zers feeling this way.
The pandemic and ensuing quarantines led to the rise of unhealthy habits, such as 12% of men stating their unhealthiest habit is drinking too much. About 17% of women have stated that their unhealthiest habit is not drinking enough water.
Generation Z's unhealthiest habit is not getting enough sleep, with 28% reporting losing sleep during the pandemic, while using tobacco topped the list for millennials (22%) and Generation Xers (21%). For 23% of baby boomers and 36% of the silent generation, their unhealthiest habit is not getting enough exercise.
Insurance implications of risky health habits
Developing risky health habits, such as using tobacco and drinking too much alcohol, can have negative implications on one's insurance policies. For example, health insurance premiums are typically 50% higher for smokers.
It's important to know what your health insurance policy covers — and doesn't — to ensure you have the right policy for your needs. For example, yearly checkups and physicals could require small copays, but it's wise to not skip that yearly visit, especially during a pandemic.
With finances strained, many are finding that their health insurance policies are less affordable. We suggest taking a look at alternative health insurance plans to find one that fits your budget.
ValuePenguin commissioned Qualtrics to conduct an online survey of 2,021 Americans, with the sample base proportioned to represent the overall population. The survey was fielded Oct. 9–13, 2020.
Generations are defined as the following ages as of October 2020:
- Generation Z: 18 to 23
- Millennial: 24 to 39
- Generation X: 40 to 54
- Baby boomer: 55 to 74
- Silent generation: 75 to 92