The COVID-19 pandemic has forced schools and universities to shift their activities online, influencing the adoption of health-related behaviours such as physical activity and healthy dietary habits. The present study investigates the changes in adherence to a healthy diet and regular physical activity in university students in Italy before and during the COVID-19 pandemic and understands the role of sociodemographic variables in creating the changes above. We conducted a repeated cross-sectional survey performing the same sampling strategy at the first data collection (T0) and second data collection (T1) with a combination of convenience and snowball sampling approaches. The sample is composed of a total of 2001 students, 60.2% women and 39.8% men, with an average age of 22.7 (±5.5 SD). At T1, 39.9% of the students reported regular physical activity. During the pandemic, however, many, especially male students, abandoned or reduced physical activity practice (T1 40%), with an increase in social media use (T0 52.1%; T1 90%). A direct association between very low frequency of physical activity and increased sedentary time (r = 0.2, p = 0.001) and between change in dietary style and increased Body Mass Index (BMI) value (r = 0.3, p = 0.002) was found. The multivariate analysis for the total sample showed that some sociodemographic variables such as gender, age, parents' level of education, area of study, household type, and perception of one's body influence eating behaviours and physical activity. Our findings suggest that universities should invest in the protection and promotion of the health of their students with specific awareness programmes, and further research should repeat the survey in the post-lockdown period to investigate the long-term effects on health-related behaviours.

Changes in Physical Activity Levels and Eating Behaviours during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Sociodemographic Analysis in University Students

Ferrara M.;Langiano E.;Falese L.;Diotaiuti P.;Cortis C.;De Vito E.
2022

Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced schools and universities to shift their activities online, influencing the adoption of health-related behaviours such as physical activity and healthy dietary habits. The present study investigates the changes in adherence to a healthy diet and regular physical activity in university students in Italy before and during the COVID-19 pandemic and understands the role of sociodemographic variables in creating the changes above. We conducted a repeated cross-sectional survey performing the same sampling strategy at the first data collection (T0) and second data collection (T1) with a combination of convenience and snowball sampling approaches. The sample is composed of a total of 2001 students, 60.2% women and 39.8% men, with an average age of 22.7 (±5.5 SD). At T1, 39.9% of the students reported regular physical activity. During the pandemic, however, many, especially male students, abandoned or reduced physical activity practice (T1 40%), with an increase in social media use (T0 52.1%; T1 90%). A direct association between very low frequency of physical activity and increased sedentary time (r = 0.2, p = 0.001) and between change in dietary style and increased Body Mass Index (BMI) value (r = 0.3, p = 0.002) was found. The multivariate analysis for the total sample showed that some sociodemographic variables such as gender, age, parents' level of education, area of study, household type, and perception of one's body influence eating behaviours and physical activity. Our findings suggest that universities should invest in the protection and promotion of the health of their students with specific awareness programmes, and further research should repeat the survey in the post-lockdown period to investigate the long-term effects on health-related behaviours.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11580/90723
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