Depression and Anxiety in Times of COVID-19: How Coping Strategies and Loneliness Relate to Mental Health Outcomes and Academic Performance

SA (Sebastian) Freyhofer Alarcon*, Niklas Ziegler, Elisabeth M. de Jong, Michaéla C. Schippers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
50 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

The link between depression, anxiety, and loneliness has been well established in the literature. Yet, the performance consequences of these negative mental health outcomes and the role of coping behaviors, as well as behavioral consequences such as procrastination as mediators have received far less research attention. Due to the COVID-19 social isolation restrictions, people are at risk of falling into a negative mental health spiral that can also affect their performance over time. The purpose of this longitudinal study among 881 first-year bachelor students is to explore the mechanisms by which loneliness, coping strategies in the context of COVID-19, mental health outcomes and procrastination sequentially mediate the relationship depression and anxiety on the one hand, and academic performance on the other hand. We measured mental health variables several times during the COVID-19 crisis and assessed how this translates into academic performance at the end of the academic year. By performing exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses, three high-order factors for the coping strategies in the context of the COVID-19 crisis were identified, namely maladaptive coping, adaptive coping, and supportive coping. Structural equation modeling was used to test the sequential mediational model. The results showed that maladaptive coping strategies employed at T2 during the lockdown, but not adaptive or supportive coping partially mediate the trajectories of depression (T1) and anxiety (T1). Loneliness (T2) partially mediated the trajectory of depression and anxiety (T1), and procrastination fully mediated the impact of depression (T3) on academic performance (T4). These results help understand the mechanisms that influence mental health and academic performance outcomes in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Based on the study outcomes, educational researchers can test strategies to reduce the adverse effects of stressful situations in learning environments by targeting maladaptive coping behaviors and procrastination.

Original languageEnglish
Article number682684
Pages (from-to)682684
Number of pages15
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Volume12
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 25 Oct 2021

Bibliographical note

Acknowledgements:
The authors would like to thank Noud Bouwhuis for the assistance with the literature search and formatting of the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2021 Freyhofer, Ziegler, de Jong and Schippers.

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