Paper Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Brooks College of Health

Degree Name

Doctor of Clinical Nutrition (DCN)


Nutrition & Dietetics

NACO controlled Corporate Body

University of North Florida. Department of Nutrition & Dietetics

First Advisor

Dr. Andrea Arikawa

Second Advisor

Dr. Lauri Wright

Third Advisor

Dr. Paul Fuglestad

Department Chair

Dr. Lauri Wright

College Dean

Dr. Curt Lox


The COVID-19 emerged in China in 2019 and quickly spread to other countries, leading to mandated lockdowns and social isolation. This cross-sectional study examined the impact of the COVID-19-generated stress, health threat, and social isolation on dietary, physical activity, and self-care habits of adults in Florida, utilizing the PMT as a framework. Participants (n = 478) completed online surveys about demographics, perceived stress, and changes in lifestyle habits. Significant positive changes were reported in cooking at home (p < .001) frequency, sweets (p < .001), and breakfast (p = .009) consumption, outdoors physical activity (p = .005), self-care (p < .001), relaxation (p < .001), and rest (p < .001) habits. Significant negative changes were reported in fast food (p = .004) and snack (p < .001) consumption. A significant relationship existed between self-reported stress, perceived threat, (r = .33, p < .001), and perceived efficacy, (r = -.15, p = .002). Perceived threat was the most important predictor of changes in dietary habits (R2 = .13); stress was the main predictor of physical activity (R2 = .60) and self-care (R2 = .18) changes. Perceived threat and stress predicted changes in dietary (ß = .255, p < .001; ß = .253, p < .001) and physical activity (ß = .177, p < .001; ß = .152, p < .001) scores, and both with perceived efficacy predicted changes in self-care (ß = .184, p < .001, ß = .375, p < .001, ß = .098, p < .05) scores. Protection-motivation seems to influence behavior change in times of distress and may support effective interventions to promote lifestyle changes. To our knowledge, this is the first study to examine the impact of COVID-19 generated stress, health threat, and social isolation on lifestyle habits of adults in Florida utilizing PMT constructs.