Silver linings

5 good habits formed during the pandemic

Lessons learned from a year full of catastrophe and change.

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There's no way to sugarcoat the Covid-19 pandemic. But amid the destruction, the pandemic has also forced change.

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The pandemic forced us to change everything, from how we handle cash, to what we wear, and how we work.

But recent studies on pandemic life suggest some adjustments drove examples of positive change.

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Here are five examples:

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1. Teen vaping leveled off

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Since 2017, teen vaping has increased at a record pace. But in 2020, the pace slowed — and even declined by some measures.

7%

The percentage of teens who vaped daily declined from 9 percent in 2019 to 7 percent in 2020

The Monitoring the Future Survey

However, the number of teens who had vaped in the past 30 days or past year stayed stable between 2019 and 2020.

The study also notes that teens seem to view vaping as riskier, compared to 2019.

And the effects of Covid-19 on the lungs and risks vaping can pose to lung health could be part of that.

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2. College students drank less heavily

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A survey of 312 college students published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs found that after the pandemic hit, students living with their peers and their parents both decreased the maximum number of drinks they had per day.

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On average, college students decreased the maximum amount of drinks in one day from 4.9 to 3.3

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2.9

Students living with parents decreased their maximum amount of drinks per day even more –  from 5.4 to 2.9

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However, only the students living at home decreased how frequently they drank (down to 2.7 days per week to 3.1). Those living with peers drank about four days per week.

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It may not be a normal college situation, but seeing as alcohol can impact the growth of white matter in the brain and is linked to aging in the brain, less alcohol is better in the long run.

3. More people became nature lovers

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69 percent of 400 park visitors said they were visiting natural areas more in 2020, according to a University of Vermont survey.

25.8 percent of those visitors had never or rarely ever visited a local natural area.

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Approximately 38.2 percent of people used the parks to find peace and quiet, connect with nature, or "contemplate" – which the authors describe as a way to reduce stress.

Outside of this survey, numerous other studies have highlighted the important role green and blue space plays in mental health

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These visits prompted park visitors to value nature more.

Sixty-nine percent of the first time visitors said they felt that green spaces, and access to them, seemed "very important."

4. More people got their flu shot

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During the 2018-2019 flu season, only 45.3 percent of American adults got a flu shot — even though the flu is an illness that resurges (and claims lives) every year.

This year, however, fears of a twindemic between Covid-19 and the flu prompted action.

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Early signs indicate more people are being vaccinated this year.

According to the CDC, flu coverage for American adults is at 48.4 percent — 3.1 percentage points higher than the 2018/2019 flu season. Overall, flu vaccination coverage is higher for every age group.

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Flu vaccination coverage is higher in 2019/2020 compared to 2018/2019.CDC

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Similar trends are being seen in Australia.

There, winter struck during the first wave of Covid-19. Between March and April, 2.1 million flu vaccines were administered. During the same time period in 2019, just 624,000 Australians got shots.

Australian Department of Health

5. The public learned the power of handwashing

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This change was in response to messages emphasizing the power of handwashing to help combat coronavirus.

Erica Anderson

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It turns out that surfaces weren't the primary way that coronavirus spreads. But hand washing is still a major and underutilized tool for combating disease.

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In a February 2020 study, scientists at MIT found that if 60 percent of people in airports had clean hands (by washing after using the bathroom for example), we could slow the spread of diseases by as much as 69 percent.

The study assumes that only 20 percent of people have clean hands in an airport at any given time.

Read more about how Covid-19 has changed life here.

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