“We really need to make sure that whatever policies we bring forward are going to have their biggest effect in the areas which are most affected by this, because the long-term effects are going to be very considerable,” Sir Chris said.
“Obesity has effects on health which you wouldn’t necessarily predict – some things are obvious, like the significant increase in risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease, but also cancers, particularly hormone driven cancers, and also infectious diseases, of which Covid was the most recent. “
“There is a very strong gradient where people who are at the higher end of the obesity spectrum have significantly worse outcomes,” he told a virtual conference run by the Local Government Association and the Association of Directors of Public Health.
Sir Chris said that evidence suggested there had already been an impact on mental health of children, with a rise in eating disorders but said far longer consequences may yet be seen.
And he said that elderly people had suffered as the result of long-periods of isolation, as loved ones kept away for fear of infecting them.
“We shouldn’t have any illusions,” he told the event. “I think there’s a big worry about the effects on mental health of particularly older people for long periods where people were lonely, because people for good public health reasons didn’t want to infect elderly or vulnerable people, but therefore they had less contact.
“That is something which we do not know the effects of, but it seems unlikely there’ll be anything other than a problem, and the impacts of disrupted schooling on some children is going to be very substantial… the long-term effects of which it’ll be very difficult, I think, to tell. “
“Immediately, for example, it does look as if there’s been some impact on some children, and young people having eating disorders,” he said.
It came as research found soaring rates of depression and anxiety following the first lockdown.