Effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on adolescent and youth nutrition and physical activity
A rapid poll indicates that 1 in 2 young people in Latin America and the Caribbean have had difficulty accessing healthy foods and have decreased physical activity
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How has the pandemic affected the diets of adolescents and youth in the region?
This was one of the questions that motivated a rapid regional poll that amplified the voices of 8,949 adolescents and young people aged 13 to 29 from different countries and territories. The poll was conducted between July and August 2020 through U-Report, a platform that encourages the participation of adolescents and young people in issues that affect them.
The results showed difficulties in accessing healthy foods and their main barriers: having less money to buy (69%), and fear of contracting the virus (34%).
During the COVID-19 crisis, there has also been an increase in consumption of sugary drinks (35%), snacks and sweets (32%), and fast food and convenience products (29%); and a decrease in consumption of fruits and vegetables (33%) and water (12%).
Around 1 in 4 (23%) of U-Reporters participants say they saw more ads for unhealthy products in the media during the pandemic.
How has the pandemic affected the physical activity of adolescents and youth in the region?
U-Reporters also mentioned a decrease in physical activity. 52% reported that they were less physically active compared to pre-pandemic times. While 33% reported no physical activity and 25% were less than one hour per week physically active. In the other hand, only 7% did practice more than 6 hours per week of physical activity.
U-Report is a digital platform present in more than 75 countries with more than 13 million adolescents and young people registered globally. Although the sample is not representative of all youth in the region, the results allow highlighting the voices of adolescents and young participants, along with knowing the challenges they face to have an adequate diet and physical activity.
Recommendations from participating U-reporters to world and national leaders
In the face of these difficulties, adolescents and youth shared their recommendations on what world and national leaders should do to ensure good nutrition for all during and after the Covid-19 pandemic. The following are the most common recommendations:
- Increase and improve the quality of nutrition education.
- Reduce prices of healthy products.
- Increase prices of unhealthy products.
- Help and protect the most vulnerable groups.
- Promote physical activity and provide open spaces for it.
- Increase the advertising of healthy products.
UNICEF responds to participating U-reporters
In response to the demands for information and proposals, UNICEF will share a series of recommendations so that adolescents and youth can have a healthier diet and living.
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The results are a call to increase access to healthy products and a nutritious and balanced diet; in addition to strengthening opportunities for physical activity during and after the COVID-19 crisis.