Disparities in Physical Activity and Depressive Symptoms among Young Adults in the Early Stage of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Xiaoxia Zhang, Samantha Moss, Xiangli Gu


Background of the study: The COVID-19 pandemic has deeply impacted people’s daily lives, while the influence on behaviors and mental health among college students at the early stage of this pandemic is rarely studied. Objective: This study examined the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the early stage on college students’ physical activity (PA), sedentary behavior, and depressive symptoms and its impact on sex and ethnic disparities in these outcomes. Methods: Using a cross-sectional design, 111 college students were recruited, and the data were collected before COVID-19 (n = 64) and in the early stage of the COVID-19 pandemic (n = 47), respectively. All participants completed a survey measuring depressive symptoms and wore an accelerometer to monitor PA behavior (light PA [LPA], moderate-to-vigorous PA [MVPA]), and sedentary behavior. Results: More MVPA engagement and lower levels of depressive symptoms were observed in the early-stage COVID-19 group compared to the before-COVID-19 group. The magnitude of the sex and ethnicity disparities in PA and depressive symptoms were reduced in the early-stage of the COVID-19 pandemic. Conclusion: Understanding college students’ behaviors and mental health in the midst of a global crisis can be useful to determine appropriate strategies to address health and wellness in the chance of the lockdown returning and to further promote this vulnerable population’s physical and mental wellness.


Ethnicity, Mental Health, Physical Movement, Sedentary Lifestyle, Sex Difference

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7575/aiac.ijkss.v.11n.1p.1


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