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Cross-sectional Study of College Students' Depression, Coping Techniques, and Health Risk Behaviors during the Initial Transition to Remote Learning: COVID-19 Pandemic

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Objective: COVID-19 has brought many challenges to college campuses. In this cross-sectional study, we assessed depression, coping, and past 30-day health risk behaviors of college students attending a mid-sized liberal arts university in Florida. Methods: We sent a survey link to all undergraduates. The data, which included depression scores (PHQ-9), coping techniques (Brief COPE), health risk behaviors (alcohol and vape use) and demographics were collected approximately 40 days after the university transitioned from face-to-face to online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. We used descriptive and regression analyses using SPSS to analyze data. Results: A total 45.6% of the respondents (N = 759) self-reported moderate to severe depression (PHQ-9 mean= 9.96, SD = 6.2). Students indicated positive and negative coping strategies. Alcohol and vape use increased with higher depressive symptoms scores (p < 0.01). Seniors had a greater odds of alcohol consumption (p < .01); however, freshmen and juniors had greater odds of vape use. Our data revealed some opportunities for positive behavior change. Conclusion: The online transition did modify students' behaviors. Students who self-reported depressive symptoms were most vulnerable to adopting greater risk behaviors. These students require ongoing monitoring and resources. Colleges should implement rapid assessment of students' depressive status and risk behaviors during volatile times.


Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: University of Tampa, Department of Health Sciences and Human Performance, Tampa, FL, United States 2: University of Tampa, Department of Nursing, Tampa, FL, United States

Publication date: May 1, 2022

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  • Health Behavior and Policy Review is a rigorously peer-reviewed scholarly bi-monthly publication that seeks manuscripts on health behavior or policy topics that represent original research, including papers that examine the development, advocacy, implementation, or evaluation of policies around specific health issues. The Review especially welcomes papers that tie together health behavior and policy recommendations. Articles are available through subscription or can be ordered individually from the Health Behavior and Policy Review site.
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