Eating and snacking more was common during the Covid-19 lockdown, with almost one in three people reporting weight gain, according to the findings of a national food study.
The 25-44 age group was more susceptible to gaining weight. One in five worried about having enough food, while charities said they saw an increase in families in need of food.
The findings of the National Covid-19 Food Study were published on Saturday by the UCD Institute of Food and Health in collaboration with Dublin City University (DCU).
Using an online-only survey, information was gathered on changes in food and drink behaviours among adults in Ireland during the Covid-19 restrictions.
The food and activity patterns of older people were less affected by the lockdown than expected, according to the study.
Younger people, especially those aged between 25 and 44 years old, showed much more change in their snacking, home cooking and baking, takeaway and alcohol habits than expected.
Dr Emma Feeney, assistant professor in food science and nutrition at UCD, said the study shows that "this relatively short period of time had a major impact on people's lives".
“People cooked at home much more but also drank more alcohol, and interviews with advocacy groups suggested many households were under pressure with more people living at home, and increased grocery costs,” she said.
Dr Eileen Gibney, deputy director of the UCD Institute of Food and Health, said: "While we saw some positive elements – with people engaging in home baking and exercising more – a significant proportion reported eating more than usual, exercising less, and weight gain.
“Worryingly, the restrictions seemed to impact food availability, with some people reporting concerns about getting the food they wanted or having enough food in their household.”
Dr Claire Timon, research fellow at the School of Nursing, Psychotherapy and Community Health in DCU, said research conducted with advocacy groups highlighted the "increased pressure placed on service provision such as meals on wheels, soup kitchens" during the Covid-19 lockdown.
“In some instances families who had never sought help for food provision before were seeking this support,” she said.
“We are hopeful that these insights and the findings from the overall survey will help us better protect our communities now and into the future.”