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Food Delivery Applications and Obesity: Lessons Learned from COVID-19 in Saudi Arabia

Author: Noara Alhusseini , Duaa Alammari, Belal Nedal Sabbah , Alaa Ahmed Almubayedh, Tarek Arabi, Hareem Rashid Mahmood, Nour Basem Odeh, Majed Ramadan

Category: JMSR Public Health


Introduction: Obesity is a global pandemic and has been associated with poor dietary habits and decreased physical activity. It has been linked to various chronic diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension. Food delivery applications have seen a surge in the last ten years, their usage becoming more common throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. While these applications have many advantages and disadvantages, they are expected to contribute to the increasing obesity rates in Saudi Arabia in the upcoming years. The purpose of the study is to assess the use of food delivery applications in Saudi Arabia. Methods: This study is a cross-sectional study using a convenience sampling technique. Due to COVID-19 safety protocols, social media platforms were used to distribute the survey from August 21, 2021, until September 19, 2021. A repeated logistic regression model was used to compare food delivery factors before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. All analyses were performed using SAS 9.4 with a two-sided p-value (α =0.05). Results: A total of 954 respondents completed the survey. The respondents predominantly reported using online applications for delivery (86.97%), for accessibility convenience and speed (80.08%), and favorably for dinner meals (61.11%). Almost half of the respondents reported an inability to control food cravings (45.49%). Furthermore, 42.14% of the respondents reported an increase in weight of up to five kg during the COVID-19 pandemic. There was a significant difference pre and during the pandemic among the use of the food delivery applications per number of use weekly, amount spent, and food choices. Conclusion: Our findings indicate that food delivery applications are commonly used in Saudi Arabia, specifically with a high prevalence of use among young Saudi residents. Yet, no interventions are proposed to reduce the purchase of highly processed food on these applications. Public health officials and healthcare providers are highly encouraged to increase awareness on obesity and healthy dietary choices to limit the ongoing obesity pandemic.

Keywords: Food delivery applications, obesity, diet, covid-19, Saudi Arabia, Online delivery


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