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EDITORIAL: Silver lining amid danger of COVID-19
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EDITORIAL: Silver lining amid danger of COVID-19

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At last, some good news regarding the coronavirus emergency. The lockdown and stay-at-home advisories apparently have inspired people to make healthier life choices.

Before the coronavirus, it was an easy task to go to the grocery store on your way home from a busy day and pick up a quick convenience meal. With the fast-paced frantic lifestyle people face in the outside world under usual circumstances, stay-at-home advisories and lockdowns have meant many Americans are able to take a break and put their health first. While there is no doubt about the harsh disruption the pandemic has caused to daily lives, it has certainly granted many the chance to improve unhealthy habits they may have fallen into over the years.

Rehabs.com, a provider of rehabilitation resources and treatment information, conducted a study of 3,000 Americans to find out if they have adopted healthier choices amid the coronavirus. Overall, nearly half of South Carolinians (48%) they have been inspired to make healthier lifestyle choices, such as quitting smoking, exercising more and drinking less alcohol. This is compared to the national average of 54%.

Broken down across the nation, it appears North Dakotans were the most motivated to change their ways during this time -- 77% of residents say the lockdown inspired them to make healthier life choices. By comparison, Alaskans seem to have taken lockdown a little harder with just 33% saying they have made positive lifestyle changes over the last few months.

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Most people have a specific lifestyle concern they have always wanted to address. Of those surveyed, 56% say they have started eating healthier since it began. This was followed by 35% of respondents taking up more exercise, and 7% quitting drinking and smoking.

In fact, it seems Americans are either running low on liquor or the thrill of drinking has worn off, as over 1 in 5 people (22%) say their alcohol consumption has decreased the longer coronavirus emergency has continued. Broken down by gender, 36% of men say this is the case, as compared to 10% of women.

Another factor regarding alcohol has to be factored in: limits placed on bars and clubs. Some are closed while those operating can accommodate fewer people, and fewer people are going out as they remain at home. Thus fewer are drinking as regularly.

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Also, when visits to the outside world are limited, regular trips to the grocery store or nearest takeout are not as easy. This means fewer processed convenience foods – such as microwave meals and freezer pizzas – and more home-cooked dinners. This is possibly why a significant 43% of respondents admit their diet has improved.

Moreover, because there is no need for commutes when people are working from home, it helps to have some extra time in the evenings to prepare a healthy meal. Cooking for yourself and/or your family can get repetitive if you are doing it every single day, multiple times per day. However, many people appear to have embraced this opportunity to fine-tune their skills in the kitchen – the average American learned to cook four new, innovative recipes since lockdown began, according to the study.

Still there are legitimate health concerns amid the coronavirus.

Dr. Lawrence Weinstein, chief medical officer for American Addiction Centers, states: “Even though some are afforded the gift of time with commutes and rush-hour traffic no longer being a daily issue, anxiety and depression surrounding the pandemic are still conditions being felt by many. With more time available, unhealthy habits such as increased substance and/or alcohol use can persist. For those who may be dealing with those issues, making better lifestyle choices such as lessening alcohol intake, adapting a better diet and exercise not only improves physical health, but are beneficial for mental health as well.”

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If there truly is a lasting curb in unhealthy lifestyle habits, South Carolinians and Americans will be able to call it a silver lining in an otherwise dangerous and difficult time.

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