Students’ health in times of the Corona pandemic
The period of education and training is not only important for the career development, it also has a long-lasting impact on health and risk behaviors closely linked to mental health and major noncommunicable diseases (e.g., cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or depression) in life. This period in life is also characterized by challenging transition processes and developmental steps. Therefore, it is important to explore health and health risks during this phase of life, the specific context of students, and also larger external influences. One such major external influence currently is the coronavirus pandemic. Our study investigates the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and containment measures on student health.
To strengthen and support student health in the medium to long term, the study investigates:
- potential impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on student health, health and risk behaviors.
- perceived consequences related to students' education, coping, and behavior in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic
- dynamics and change of effect on outcomes and perception over time
The study is an open cohort, including and cross-sectionally investigating repetitive samples of students at the ZHAW. The Zurich Ethics Committee and ZHAW Data Protection Officer have found the study to be ethically and legally correct. Due to the unique epidemiological and the online teaching situation the study ran for three pandemic semesters. Nine surveys were sent out, three in each semester (see Figure 1). Students of the ZHAW were contacted via their student e-mail address and received online access to a questionnaire by e-mail. Overall, the study managed to reach about 70% of the students body at some time point throughout the study.
Main results of the study so far
- Students showed a high compliance with containment recommendations and measures. Lowest compliance was seen for “limiting social contacts to five people”. While men yielded a significant lower compliance for social distancing, non-utilization of public transport, 5-person limit for social gatherings and the stay at home rule, the effect on the prevalence of non-compliance by gender was marginal. In addition to gender, factors associated with adherence were information source and perceived susceptibility to the virus.
- Mental health deteriorated over the observed time period
The study showed that both generalized anxiety and depressive symptoms increased in severity and prevalence and severity. The initial prevalence in April 2020 of moderate to severe depressive symptoms was three times as high as in a comparable representative sample in 2017 and increased further over time.
- A latent class analysis (LCA) yielded three classes varying in perceived COVID-19 impact: 1 (low, n = 675), 2 (moderate, n = 1098), and 3 (strong, n = 656), and a significant increase in the adjusted proportion of moderate to severe anxiety by class with a 10-fold increase in class 3 compared to class 1.
- Generalized anxiety symptom prevalence was significantly higher in non-health professional students as compared to health profession students. The absolute differences in anxiety between the two student groups over all eight measurement points ranged from 6.2% to 14.9% (all p<0.05). Non-HP students have identified as a specifically vulnerable group.
- Out of 80% who reported having drunk alcohol during the last 30 day, a third engaged at least one in binge drinking (>5 beverages) and a fifth consumed more than usual. Similarly, in a minority of marijuana users (11%) about a fourth consumed more during the lock-down than before.
- A third of the students intended to get vaccinated against Cov-2 SARS virus, once the vaccine became available to them. The majority was either unsure or opposed about getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Next to demographic characteristics, vaccination history, trust in vaccination strategy, and 5C dimensions were associated with vaccination intention, such as collective responsibility or calculation.
Further results will be published in peer reviewed journals and main results provided on this website. Analyses of the study data are ongoing.
- Results from the survey April 2020(PDF 337,9 KB) (in German)
- Results from the survey October 2020(PDF 279,3 KB) (in German)
- Results from the survey December 2020(PDF 403,1 KB) (in German)
- Short report (PDF 191,8 KB)(in German)
Where do I turn to when I am not feeling well
- Project management
Prof. Dr. med. Julia Dratva
- Project duration
3.4.2020 - end not yet determined
- Project team
- Prof. Dr. Thomas Volken
- Dr. Annina Zysset
- Nadine Schlatter
- Prof. Dr. Agnes von Wyl / Department of Applied Psychology
- Project partner
Alias - Students ZHAW, Society Students ZHAW
- Project status