Apr 5, 2020 - Health

Virus vices take a toll on Americans

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Americans are doubling down on their worst habits to cope with the mental and emotional stress of the coronavirus pandemic.

Why it matters: The pandemic will have a long-lasting impact on the health of the American people, in part due to the habits they'll pick up during the weeks and months they're forced to stay home.

Details: Substance abuse, a lack of physical stimulation and unhealthy diets are beginning to take a toll on Americans.

  • Alcohol sales were up 55% in the week ending March 21, according to Nielsen, which measures media as well as consumer markets. Spirits were up 75%, followed by wine up 66% and beer up 42%. Online alcohol sales were up 243%.
  • Weed sales are soaring in places across the country where buying marijuana is legal, although some businesses have been caught flat-footed by the demand.
  • Porn consumption is up, according to the website Pornhub. Traffic from the U.S. (Pornhub’s largest market) was up 6.4% on March 17.
  • People are eating more. With consumers relying mostly on nonperishable foods, like pasta and canned food, many are concerned about gaining weight — the "COVID-15" or the "quarantine 15."
  • And they're exercising less. According to data from 68,000 fitness trackers, Americans are moving less and sleeping more under quarantine, per CNBC. While many workouts have moved online, some are finding it difficult to get into a good workout routine at home or to find the time to do so while balancing work and child care duties.

Americans are streaming more television than ever before, and as a result, more people are binge-watching their favorite shows, meaning they're watching three or more episodes from a series at a time.

  • Gaming has also boomed. Twitch, Mixer, Caffeine and Discord, all new-age livestream gaming platforms, posted their best revenue-generating month in March, according to data from Apptopia.

The big picture: We already know that the coronavirus outbreak is starting to weigh on Americans’ mental and emotional health, according to the Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index poll.

  • That's not likely to get any better as Americans overindulge in their favorite vices while they wait out the pandemic.
  • In addition, increased fear and stress are causing Americans to act out and embrace their worst instincts. There's some evidence that domestic violence is skyrocketing since the outbreak of the virus, and experts worry that more is on the way, according to Axios' Ina Fried.
  • Firearms sales have surged over the past month, too. March was the second-busiest month ever for gun sales, per the New York Times, and Axios' Stef Kight reports that the FBI processed 3.7 million gun background checks in March, more than any previous month.

The bottom line: The coronavirus lockdown is unhealthy for Americans on many levels — but it is keeping us alive.

Go deeper: The coronavirus' toll on our mental and emotional health

Go deeper

Updated 8 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 5,923,432— Total deaths: 364,836 — Total recoveries — 2,493,434Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 1,745,930 — Total deaths: 102,808 — Total recoveries: 406,446 — Total tested: 16,099,515Map.
  3. Public health: Hydroxychloroquine prescription fills exploded in March —How the U.S. might distribute a vaccine.
  4. 2020: North Carolina asks RNC if convention will honor Trump's wish for no masks or social distancing.
  5. Business: Fed chair Powell says coronavirus is "great increaser" of income inequality.
  6. 1 sports thing: NCAA outlines plan to get athletes back to campus.

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