Depressive symptoms in higher education students during the COVID-19 pandemic: the role of containment measures

Buffel, Veerle and Van de Velde, Sarah and Akvardar, Yildiz and Bask, Miia and Brault, Marie-Christine and Busse, Heide and Chatzittofis, Andreas and Ladner, Joel and Rabiee-Khan, Fatemeh and Stathopoulou, Theoni and Tavolacci, Marie-Pierre and van der Heijde, Claudia and Pischke, Claudia R and Matos Fialho, Paula Mayara and Wouters, Edwin (2022) Depressive symptoms in higher education students during the COVID-19 pandemic: the role of containment measures. European Journal of Public Health. ISSN 1101-1262

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Students are a vulnerable group for the indirect impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly their mental health. This paper examined the cross-national variation in students’ depressive symptoms and whether this can be related to the various protective measures implemented in response to the initial stage of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Student data stem from the COVID-19 International Student Well-being Study, covering 26 countries during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Country-level data on government responses to the COVID-19 pandemic were retrieved from the Oxford COVID-19 Tracker. Multilevel analyses were performed to estimate the impact of the containment and economic support measures on students’ depressive symptoms (n = 78 312).

School and workplace closures, and stay-at-home restrictions were positively related to students’ depressive symptoms during the COVID-19 pandemic, while none of the economic support measures significantly related to depressive symptoms. Countries’ scores on the index of these containment measures explained 1.5% of the cross-national variation in students’ depressive symptoms (5.3%). This containment index’s effect was stable, even when controlling for the economic support index, students’ characteristics, and countries’ epidemiological context and economic conditions.

Our findings raise concerns about the potential adverse effects of existing containment measures (especially the closure of schools and workplaces and stay-at-home restrictions) on students’ mental health.

Item Type: Article
Identification Number:
7 March 2022Accepted
15 March 2022Published Online
Subjects: CAH02 - subjects allied to medicine > CAH02-06 - allied health > CAH02-06-01 - health sciences (non-specific)
Divisions: Faculty of Health, Education and Life Sciences > School of Health Sciences
Depositing User: Fatemeh Rabiee-Khan
Date Deposited: 20 Apr 2022 11:01
Last Modified: 20 Apr 2022 11:07

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