Sub-Saharan Africans increase healthy habits to beat the virus

Finding ourselves in the middle of a global pandemic has been a shock. We've spent a lot of time fine-tuning ways in which we can prevent ourselves from catching the virus. Covid-19 has prompted many of us to examine our health, with 63% of people around the world reporting that coronavirus has encouraged them to seriously consider their levels of health and fitness. We've taken a closer look at global changes with regard to general health, hygiene and fitness, with a special focus on Nigeria and South Africa.
While the blow to the economy is of paramount importance to South Africans (have a look at our article Top concerns for South African consumers), health is still a major concern. In sub-Saharan Africa three quarters of South Africans and Nigerians are taking greater care of their health since Covid-19 became a reality in all of our lives, which is slightly more than the global average.

Enhancing overall health is the motivation. Globally only 9% of people are concerned with only altering their hygiene habits, a similar number of people in this region feel the same.

When it comes to food, there has been a 16% increase in the number of people experimenting with becoming vegetarian, and 6% seriously considering a vegan diet worldwide since the onset of the pandemic. While Nigerians’ dietary changes mirrored global trends, South Africans were less inclined to give up their meat-based diets with only 10% considering a vegetarian diet and 4% looking into veganism. Worldwide 69% of people reported making no adjustments to the way they ate as a response to the pandemic. A much larger proportion of South Africans (83%) and Nigerians (72%) say they have not altered their diets in any way.

Of all the adjustments that people are making to their daily lives, taking immunity boosting supplements and vitamin tablets hold more appeal for South Africans and Nigerians compared to the rest of the world. Exercise, drinking more water and improved sleep are also important to people from these countries.


With gyms being closed, exercise classes cancelled and some countries' lockdowns placing strict restrictions on people’s movements, the way we exercise has changed this year. Despite the popularity of video conferencing, both South Africans and Nigerians are less inclined to join friends or family members in a virtual meet-up in order to exercise compared to people living elsewhere in the world. Individually following an online class, however, is a popular option with inhabitants of both countries. Going for a run or walk outside is particularly popular with South Africans with 42% of people reporting this to be their regular exercise choice, compared to 27% of Nigerians who claim the same.


South Africans have been reluctant to visit their doctors during the pandemic. Digital platforms have provided the medical profession with an alternative to in-person consultations. For more on this read South Africans embrace digital medical consultations.

With all the change and uncertainty wreaked upon people’s lives by the coronavirus pandemic, mental health and how to best take care of it has become a hot topic. A third of people around the world claim to be focusing on mental health more since the pandemic began. In sub-Saharan Africa this is an even greater priority for people, with 43% of South Africans and 38% of Nigerians saying they are putting more effort into caring for their mental health.


While our health and fitness has been placed under the spotlight this year, around the world people have tweaked their lifestyles in different ways. In sub-Saharan Africa people have been reluctant to change their diet, preferring to take supplements and to increase the amount of exercise they do. Incorporating small changes such as drinking more water and getting better quality sleep has also been reported.

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