Health and the Pandemic

A Reflection on COVID-19’s Impact on Society

A year ago, I remember setting up my home office and trying to think of all the ways I could limit my exposure to CODIV-19 while still getting my daily tasks done.  I cancelled my haircuts, bought a pack of masks, and talked to my son about why his school trip over spring break had been cancelled.  At the time, I did not think about the possibility of these new conditions of living being in place for more than a year.

Today, we can all look back at 13 months of compromises and we are not done yet.  In social life, work life, and all aspects of life we have made changes and scaled things back to stay clear of the virus.  But if we had known then that it would be this long, would we have done things any differently?

 

How Have We Changed During the Pandemic?

While we all hunkered down to ride out the storm, some of us found ourselves – on purpose or not – making positive changes to our habits.  In a recent ENGINE CARAVAN study of 1,002 American consumers, we found a sizable chunk of us were able to make positive changes in the past year:

Most folks have held their habits pretty much the same as before the pandemic – 52% of us have not changed our drinking habits and 54% are eating healthy the same amount as before, for example. Only 14% said they are drinking more than before the pandemic began.

Despite all the stories we are hearing and reading about people drinking more alcohol and putting on the “Covid 15”, it appears that many folks have found this strange time to be good for their healthy habits.  Then again, all of these changes may be more or less related to not being able to go out to restaurants and bars as much as we did in the past.

 

What About After the Pandemic?

So now that the vaccine is being rolled out and we dare to consider returning to normal life, what will happen to our habits?  Some people are optimistic:

Just under half of us are predicting we will exercise more, and more than a third say they think they will drink less or smoke less after the pandemic. If this holds true, think of the positive benefits to our collective health that we could achieve!

People are feeling optimistic in many areas – according to ENGINE’s recent Pulse of the American Consumer. 47% of respondents predict that they will be better off financially one year from now than they are today. With household finances looking up, and optimism about being more healthy, consumers are likely ripe for messages that help them pave a path to better times and the businesses that they buy from can step in and support that attitude.

 

What Does This Mean for Society?

The challenge is, how can we, as companies involved in and influencing the choices that American consumers make, help them stick to their healthy intentions?

  • Can we provide services or benefits that make it easy to increase exercise or healthy food choices?
  • Can we partner with other companies to bring alternative activities and stress relievers to consumers who would otherwise turn to a smoke or cocktail to relax?
  • As people emerge from their home offices and Zoom calls, are there new things they will want to do in their free (out of the house) time that we can start building now?

Anytime there is changing behavior, there is opportunity.  As American consumers (hope to?) improve their healthier habits, the companies that serve them are well positioned to jump in with offerings that can help them stick to these new ways.  And we will all benefit.

Written by Margaret Rorick,  SVP at ENGINE Insights.

 

 

 

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