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Journal of Community Health

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The numerous negative health impacts of COVID-19, which include expected changes to psychiatric illness and physical activity (PA), are disproportionately distributed in the United States. Mental illnesses and physical inactivity are prevalent among U.S. college students. This study examined whether there was a change in minutes of PA and depression scores after a stay-at-home order and examined predictors of these changes. An online survey was sent to all undergraduate and graduate students attending a large, diverse university via an electronic newsletter. The survey requested information about demographic and academic data, cardiorespiratory fitness, and depression symptoms. Paired t-tests and logistic regression were employed. Our sample (n = 194) was predominantly female (73%), young (mean age of 25), not a sexual minority (82%), and had a mean 3.4 GPA. Students reported worse depression scores (p < 0.01) and fewer minutes of PA (p = 0.01) after the stay-at-home order. There was a small but significant (p = 0.04) correlation between changes in total minutes of PA and depression scores. Senior (p = 0.05) and Hispanic (p = 0.03) students were less likely to report worsening depression scores than freshmen and white students, respectively. Asian students were significantly more likely than white students to report decreased PA. This study suggests that COVID-19 and its consequences may be contributing to reduced PA and greater depression symptoms in college students and that sub-groups have been affected differently. Targeted interventions to promote PA and support mental health may bolster the ability for resilience of college students.


College students; Covid 19; Depression; Mental health; Physical activity


Medicine and Health Sciences | Mental and Social Health | Psychiatric and Mental Health

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