Dear donors, When this project started in April 2020, we did not expect hundreds of thousands of people to donate their health data for more than a year - your participation and continued willingness to support this project has exceeded our boldest dreams. To live up to the trust you’ve placed in us, we continue to adapt the project to best serve public health needs throughout the ongoing pandemic by exploring new use cases as they become relevant depending on the current situation. Right now, most of the team is busily working on a new version of the Datenspende app that will allow more direct interaction between the team and you.
At the same time, we also want to continue to present our project results in more detail to you. So in this report, we will pay special attention to the fact that we now have over one year of data collected. This is a significant milestone, because it allows us to draw longitudinal conclusions from the data and share those with you. So, today we will compare the data from May 2021 to data from May 2020 and see what insights one can generate from this. Take a look at the figures below.
Looking at the regional average heart rate in the month of May, we can see a general trend of higher resting heart rate in 2021 compared to the previous year. This elevation in heart rate is observed in all the federal states and for Germany overall, with an increase of 1.2 bpm. It is interesting that we see this despite colder temperatures and higher rainfall in 2021, ruling out the effect of hot weather raising the population’s heart rate like we saw last summer. Looking at the pandemic situation, May 2020 and 2021 are both located at the downward trend of infection waves, but with restrictions still in place.
One interesting difference is that according to polls, 40% of people reported gaining an average of 5.6kg over the last year. It is unsure whether this is the reason for the increased heart rate, but it is well understood that increased weight and reduced fitness results in a higher resting heart rate.
Looking at the step count of May 2021 vs 2020, we do not see a huge difference. There is a very slight decrease of 60 steps nationwide. The obvious reason for the reduced activity would be the weather and rain conditions forcing people to spend more time inside compared to last May. But the effect is rather small so there are not many conclusions we can draw from it.
When we compare sleep in May 2021 to May 2020, we see a decrease in average sleep duration in each of the federal states and in Germany overall, with a nationwide loss of 4 minutes of sleep. Several studies indicate that over the course of the pandemic, especially early on, sleep duration increased compared to previous years. Therefore, one could postulate that May 2021 reflects a return to historical norms as the pandemic sleepiness wears off. Also interestingly, the same studies found that the degree of change in sleep was correlated with the degree of improvement in resting heart rate. Now we observe an increase in heart rate as sleep duration decreases.
As you can see, making concrete assertions of how specific results came to be is rather difficult given the very dynamic nature of the pandemic and the data we collect. Nevertheless, we are glad that we are now able to dig into long-term developments thanks to your donations. Please stay safe and healthy, get vaccinated if you can, and stay tuned for upcoming announcements and updates!