We probably all look forward to the end of this pandemic. As people are getting vaccinated, restrictions are getting lifted, and curfews are disappearing, there is light at the end of the tunnel. However, not everyone is this positive: take Giovanni’s case, a 19-year-old Italian student from Maastricht University. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a big impact on his daily life. For example, he is not studying on campus with his fellow students anymore but spends most of his days alone in his student room. He has lost all his social interactions: he left all his friends back in Italy and did not meet many new people in Maastricht since his sport club and campus closed down. He was struggling with depression and anxiety before the lockdown and his mental health only got worse during the pandemic, as millions of other students who go through similar experiences.
For students like Giovanni there may be permanent consequences of the lockdown. This is why we are interested in investigating how lifestyle factors, such as sleep and physical activity, are related to anxiety and depression in students studying at Dutch universities. We’re going to look at different lifestyle factors, namely: sleep, physical activity, drug and alcohol use, and social interactions; all of which we expect to be influenced a lot by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Due to time restrictions, we chose to only investigate Dutch universities so we could compare results from different Dutch universities and say something about the Netherlands as a whole, since students here all experienced similar COVID-19 restrictions set by the different universities.
What we expect to find is that students sleep worse, do less physical activity, have less social interactions, and perhaps use more alcohol and drugs. Besides that, we expect that these changes in lifestyle because of COVID-19 are related with anxiety and depression symptoms in students. We hope that our findings will raise awareness and increase prevention of mental health issues like Giovanni’s to make it easier for students like him to get back to their normal life.
Erica Dos Santos Ribeiro, Pia Moschko, Katja Jonker, Lena Dürr, Arianna Zini
May 2021 IPN2027
Maastricht University FPN