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Physical Activity, Nutritional Habits, and Sleeping Behavior in Students and Employees of a Swiss University During the COVID-19 Lockdown Period

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

Subtitle:Questionnaire Survey Study

BACKGROUND: The new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 led to the COVID-19 pandemic starting in January 2020. The Swiss Federal Council prescribed a lockdown of nonessential businesses. Students and employees of higher education institutions had to install home offices and participate in online lectures.

OBJECTIVE: The aim of this survey study was to evaluate lifestyle habits, such as physical activity (PA), sitting time, nutritional habits (expressed as median modified Mediterranean Diet Score [mMDS]), alcohol consumption habits, and sleeping behavior during a 2-month period of confinement and social distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Survey participants were students and employees of a Swiss university of applied sciences.

METHODS: All students and employees from Bern University of Applied Sciences, Department of Health Professions (ie, nursing, nutrition and dietetics, midwifery, and physiotherapy divisions) were invited to complete an anonymous online survey during the COVID-19 confinement period. Information on the lifestyle dimensions of PA, sitting time, nutritional and alcohol consumption habits, and sleep behavior was gathered using adaptations of validated questionnaires. Frequency analyses and nonparametric statistical methods were used for data analysis. Significance was set at 5% α level of error.

RESULTS: Prevalence of non-health-enhancing PA was 37.1%, with participants of the division of physiotherapy showing the lowest prevalence. Prevalence of long sitting time (>8 hours/day) was 36.1%. The median mMDS was 9, where the maximal score was 15, with participants of the division of nutrition and dietetics being more adherent to a Mediterranean diet as compared to the other groups. Prevalence of nonadherence to the Swiss alcohol consumption recommendations was 8.3%. Prevalence of low sleeping quality was 44.7%, while the median sleeping duration was 8 hours, which is considered healthy for adult populations.

CONCLUSIONS: In the group analysis, differences in PA, sitting time, and mMDS were observed between different divisions of health professions as well as between Bachelor of Science students, Master of Science students, and employees. Therefore, public health messages regarding healthy lifestyle habits during home confinement should be more group specific. The results of this study may provide support for the implementation of group-specific health promotion interventions at universities in pandemic conditions.

TRIAL REGISTRATION: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT04502108; https://www.clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT04502108.

Journal: JMIR public health and surveillance
ISSN: 2369-2960
Issue: 4
Volume: 7
Publication year:2021
Keywords:Adult, COVID-19/epidemiology, Exercise/psychology, Faculty/psychology, Feeding Behavior, Female, Humans, Male, Quarantine, Sleep, Students/psychology, Surveys and Questionnaires, Switzerland/epidemiology, Universities, Young Adult
  • WoS Id: 000647221500019
  • ORCID: /0000-0003-1583-4043/work/94284530
  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.2196/26330
  • Scopus Id: 85104135303
  • PubMed Central Id: PMC8045773
BOF-publication weight:10
Authors from:Higher Education