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Reaction to the study that assesses the health impacts of the 2020 lockdowns in three European cities

A study assesses the health impacts of the 2020 closures in three European cities that implemented different measures: Barcelona, Stockholm and Vienna. The researchers took data on changes in pollution, noise and physical activity at three different points in time. Their findings suggest that, while the reduction in noise and pollution may have been positive for health, the negative consequences of the lack of physical activity were generally greater.

30/03/2022 - 16:19 CEST

Barcelona, Stockholm and Vienna were European cities where there were lockdowns in 2020. Carlos Barba / EFE.

Expert reactions

Pedro Gullón - confinamientos

Pedro Gullón

Social epidemiologist and doctor specialising in preventive medicine and public health at the University of Alcalá

Science Media Centre Spain

The study analyses what effect different population-based pandemic measures have had on health facets other than covid-19. The results are in line with existing literature showing that public health measures can have side effects; and covid-19 restriction measures can have side effects as well. This provides lessons for the future on how measures can be made with a good risk-benefit balance. This is an example of how a public health intervention has population-wide consequences. Even small individual-level changes in physical activity, when taken to scale, can have enormous population health effects. 

The results are robust and of good quality, although the authors of the paper acknowledge some important limitations. I think the main limitations have to do with (1) the use of Google data to measure physical activity, which may not be representative of the population; (2) that the models they use assume that confinement for 12 months would have been the same as the 10 weeks it was in place, which is difficult to assume, as the population would surely have changed patterns of acceptance of the measure or the economic and social effects would have forced them to change; (3) that they may not have data on how this may affect existing health inequalities or even whether they may be exacerbating them. 

In short, this is a relevant study for future public health actions to make a good risk-benefit balance of population-based interventions. In this specific case, containment measures that allow for physical activity can reduce the risks associated with containment while still protecting against risks associated with contagion.

Pedro Gullón has collaborated in scientific studies with some of the authors of the article.

Impacts of changes in environmental exposures and health behaviours due to the COVID-19 pandemic on cardiovascular and mental health: A comparison of Barcelona, Vienna, and Stockholm
  • Research article
  • Peer reviewed
Environmental Pollution
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Study types:
  • Research article
  • Peer reviewed
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