Impact of COVID-19 Stay-at-Home Orders on Health Behaviors and Anxiety in Black and White Americans

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BACKGROUND: In the United States (US), the incidence and severity of COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations, and deaths are higher in Black compared to White residents. Systemic inequities and differences in health behaviors may contribute to disparities in COVID-19 health outcomes. The aim of this study was to examine the impact of COVID-19 stay-at-home orders on changes in health behaviors and anxiety in Black and White adults residing in the US. METHODS: Beginning April 2020, the Pennington Biomedical Research Center COVID-19 Health Behaviors Study collected information on changes to employment, income, diet, physical activity, anxiety, and sleep patterns through a global online survey. RESULTS: Of 4542 survey respondents in the US, 7% identified as Black and 93% as White. Prior to the COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, a greater proportion of Blacks compared to Whites reported earning < US$50,000 per year (p < 0.0001). A greater proportion of Blacks reported being laid off, working fewer hours, and working from home following COVID-19 stay-at-home orders (p < 0.0001 for all). In the overall sample, eating behaviors improved, physical activity decreased, sleep time prolonged, and anxiety heightened following COVID-19 stay-at-home orders (p < 0.01 for all), which were universal between Black and White respondents (p ≥ 0.315 for all). CONCLUSIONS: This study highlights the disproportionate changes to employment and income in Blacks, with no differential impact on health behaviors and anxiety compared to Whites due to COVID-19 stay-at-home orders. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, disproportionate changes to employment and income status may widen among Blacks and Whites, which may influence health behaviors and anxiety.

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Journal of racial and ethnic health disparities

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