To limit the spread of COVID-19, public authorities have recommended sanitary behaviors such as handwashing, mask-wearing, physical distancing, and social distancing. We recruited a large sample of higher education students in Belgium (N = 3201-3441) to investigate the role of sociodemographic variables, mental health, previous COVID-19 infections, academic involvement, and risk perception on adherence to these sanitary behaviors. This cross-sectional study took place during the second COVID-19 wave in Belgium, between February and March 2021. Analyses showed that living alone, being female, later in the academic curriculum, having higher general and health anxiety, higher academic involvement, and higher risk perception were positively associated with adherence to the four aforementioned sanitary behaviors. Conversely, previous infection with COVID-19 and having been quarantined were negative predictors. Our results show a set of predictors highly similar for the four sanitary behaviors. We discuss potential initiatives to increase adherence to sanitary behaviors in this group of highly educated youngsters.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the psychological well-being of students. Several stressors (such as socioeconomic and education-related contexts) could influence mental health, as well as individual and relational dimensions. This study proposes to evaluate the predictive effect of these factors on anxiety and depressive symptoms among students in higher education one year after the beginning of the pandemic. A sample of 23,307 students (Mage = 20.89; SD = 1.96; 69.08% of women) was assessed through an online self-report questionnaire including adapted and validated measures. The main rates were as follows: 50.6% of students presented anxiety symptoms; 55.1% reported depressive symptoms; 20.8% manifested suicidal ideations; 42.4% saw their financial situation deteriorate; 39.1% felt they were dropping out of school. One year after the beginning of the pandemic, students in higher education are anxious and depressed, especially those who identify as women (for both anxiety and depression) and as a non-binary gender (only for anxiety), experience a deterioration in their financial situation, are dropping out of school, or manifest hostility (for both anxiety and depression). The degree of study affects the symptoms' severity (Bachelor 2 and 3 for anxiety and Master for depression). Contact with family and friends (for both anxiety and depression) as well as regular physical activity (only for depression) should provide some protection against psychological distress. Policy-makers must make a long-term investment in the well-being and positive mental health of the student community.