University students are at elevated risk for psychological distress, especially
during the COVID-19 pandemic. The aim of this study was to warmly contact
our students and investigate the psychological impact of the COVID-19
pandemic on the subjective wellbeing (SWB) and levels of psychological
symptoms (such as depressive and anxious feelings) of university students in
Belgium. All bachelor and master students of the Vrije Universiteit Brussels
(N = 15,475) were invited for a brief structured telephone interview in March,
2021. In total, 7,154 students were assessed by a structured interview,
based on the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K6) and the Anamnestic
Comparative Self-Assessment (ACSA). Compared to a representative sample,
students considered their life during the pandemic as less satisfying compared
to their life before the pandemic. Overall, all students have suffered from
COVID-19 and the measures taken to contain the pandemic. Twenty percent
of our sample of 7,154 VUB students scored above the K6 cutoff, indicating
a heightened risk for having a diagnosable mental illness severe enough to
cause functional limitations and to require treatment. This study highlights
the need for psychological support for all students, during the COVID-19
This work was funded by Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Department of student affairs (project: VUB Geeft om Jou).
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