Comparing eating behaviours, and symptoms of depression and anxiety between Spain and Greece during the COVID-19 outbreak: Cross-sectional analysis of two different confinement strategies.

European eating disorders review : the journal of the Eating Disorders Association. 2020;28(6):836-846

Plain language summary

Stress and mental health problems which may be induced by restrictions imposed during the Covid-19 pandemic can lead to unhealthy eating habits. Restrictions have varied amongst countries and this cross-sectional analysis aimed to compare eating behaviours and symptoms of stress experienced by 1841 individuals in countries with differing lockdown measures. The results showed that individuals in the country with higher lockdown measures showed lower restraint in eating, they were more likely to overeat if they saw or smelt food and reported increased anxiety. However, they did not display depression or overeating when experiencing negative feelings. It was concluded that both countries had a high frequency of depression and anxiety. Higher restrictions were associated with greater anxiety, lower restraint and overeating when confronted with food. This paper could be used by healthcare professionals to recognise the need to include dietary advice when dealing with patients who are reporting anxiety during the current Covid-19 pandemic.


OBJECTIVE We compared eating behaviours, and depressive and anxiety symptoms in two countries with different confinement strictness strategies and different levels of COVID-19 pandemic. METHOD A web-based cross-sectional survey was administered during and shortly after the COVID-19 related lockdown in Spain and Greece. Multivariable linear regression analyses were performed to identify country differences associated with eating behaviour, and symptoms of depression and anxiety. RESULTS This study included 1,002 responders in Spain and 839 in Greece. The mean ± SD of restraint, emotional and external eating was 2.5 ± 0.79, 2.1 ± 0.81 and 2.6 ± 0.65 in Spain, whereas 2.7 ± 0.85, 2.3 ± 0.99 and 2.9 ± 0.74 in Greece. Spanish participants had lower average scores of restraint and external eating compared to Greek participants (p < .001), but no difference was seen for emotional eating. In Spain, 13.6%, and 12.3% of the survey respondents reported moderate to severe depressive and anxiety symptoms, respectively, whereas in Greece the respective values were 18.8 and 13.2%. After adjusting for several risk factors, a higher prevalence of anxiety symptoms was observed in Spain compared to Greece (p = .001), but no difference was seen for depressive symptoms. CONCLUSIONS This study demonstrated high scores of inappropriate eating behaviours and a high frequency of depressive and anxiety symptoms in two Mediterranean countries during the COVID-19 outbreak. Our findings revealed that compared to Greek participants, Spanish participants, that faced more severe COVID-19 pandemic and stricter lockdown measures, were associated with lower restraint and external eating and increased anxiety symptoms, but not with depressive symptoms or emotional eating.

Lifestyle medicine

Fundamental Clinical Imbalances : Immune and inflammation
Patient Centred Factors : Mediators/Anxiety
Environmental Inputs : Diet ; Nutrients ; Mind and spirit
Personal Lifestyle Factors : Nutrition ; Stress and resilience
Functional Laboratory Testing : Not applicable

Methodological quality

Jadad score : Not applicable
Allocation concealment : Not applicable
Publication Type : Comparative Study ; Journal Article


Nutrition Evidence keywords : Lockdown ; Emotional disorders