5 lingering health issues triggered by Covid-19 pandemic
The pandemic has touched almost every aspect of our lives, and is continuing to play havoc with our health in ways you might not expect.
After more than two years of upheaval, life feels more normal than it has in ages.
But unfortunately, many people are still feeling a wide range of side effects of the pandemic.
“The pandemic has had a significant impact on the health and wellbeing of Australians, and it’s not just due to the direct impact of the Covid-19 virus,” Royal Australian College of General Practitioners vice-president Dr Bruce Willet says.
Dr Willet says GPs across Australia have seen increases in mental health concerns, anxiety and loneliness.
“While restrictions have now eased, the impacts of those times will be felt for many years to come, both at an individual and health system level,” Dr Willet says.
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Here’s some of the major health challenges still being faced as a result of the pandemic:
Research shows a major escalation of eating disorders since the Covid-19 pandemic started.
“With the pandemic, we basically went from freedom to no freedom at all and no control over the situation, so a lot of the time that sparks eating disorders, basically because food is something that we can control,” dietitian Alice Bleathman says.
And binge eating disorder, which is closely linked to our inability to self-soothe or manage certain emotions, has been particularly prevalent.
If you’re struggling, Alice recommends seeking professional help, with the Butterfly Foundation a great, free place to start.
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With many of us spending more time on our mobile phones, the Australian Chiropractors Association has warned “tech neck” is also on the up.
“The human head weighs five kilograms,” association president Dr David Cahill says.
“However, as the neck bends forward and down, the weight on the cervical spine begins to increase.”
According to Dr Cahill, when we hunch over our phones, 60 degrees of neck flexion can place up to 27 kilograms of weight through the spine.
The fix? Dr Cahill suggests taking short 20-second breaks every 20 minutes to stand up and stretch, incorporating chin tucks into your daily routine and bringing your screen to eye level so your head doesn’t slouch forward.
Physiotherapist Dr Sophie Heywood says many patients with arthritis haven’t had access to pools to exercise in during the pandemic.
“As a consequence they are deconditioned, have greater weakness and pain, and are finding it tough to get back into exercise,” Dr Heywood says.
“For those with chronic disease like arthritis, obesity or pain, exercise is already a challenge and the pandemic gave many of them an additional blocker.”
For those returning to exercise, Dr Heywood recommends getting to the pool as a great way to ease back into a routine.
Check in with your physio, who can help provide a plan for improving your fitness.
Track what you do, and measure your response, she says.
Ever heard of dream-enactment disorder?
It’s when people physically act out their dreams, perhaps by punching the air or even jumping out of bed, and it’s increased up to four-fold during the pandemic, say researchers.
An international sleep study has found those who have been infected with Covid are the most likely to experience it, but that it could also be the result of pandemic-induced stress.
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Delayed health screenings
Many people steered clear of medical appointments, including routine checks, during the worst of the pandemic, and the effects are now being felt.
“The system is now playing catch-up and sadly for many people, delaying early intervention had resulted in more advanced disease at time of diagnosis,” Dr Willet says.
He urges anyone with concerns about their health and wellbeing to contact their GP and get expert advice early.
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Written by Larissa Ham.