Publication Date



International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health


Restrictions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic had forced American college students to significantly reduce their daily energy expenditure and increase their sedentary behaviors, thus presumably increasing mental health symptoms, decreasing physical activity levels, and enhancing the promotion of unhealthy eating habits. This study aimed to explore the correlations between mental health symptoms, physical activity levels, and body composition in college students in the years following the pandemic, focusing on the lingering effects of lockdown measures. American college students completed pre-existing, well-validated surveys for both mental health (Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale) and physical activity (International Physical Activity Questionnaire—Long Form). Body composition was assessed in person with the use of an Inbody 570 device. Of the 90 American college students (M age = 22.52 ± 4.54, 50 females) who participated in this study, depressive and anxious symptom scores consistent with heightened symptomatology were reported by 58% of the participants (N = 52), moderate borderline symptomatology by 17% (N = 15), and asymptomatology by 25% (N = 23). In regard to physical activity, 79% (N = 71) of the students were highly physically active, 18% (N = 16) were moderately active, and 3% (N = 3) reported low levels of physical activity. Additionally, 46% (N = 41) of the students maintained an unhealthy body fat percentage based on the World Health Organization recommendations. Strong, significant relationships were found between anxiety and depression symptomatology and body fat percentage (positive correlation, p = 0.003) and between anxiety and depression symptomatology and skeletal muscle mass (negative correlation, p = 0.015), with said symptomatology increasing with added body fat and decreasing with added skeletal muscle mass. The COVID-19 pandemic lockdown restrictions affected American college students through an increase in mental health symptomatology and a deterioration in overall body composition.


Female, Humans, Mental Health, Pandemics, COVID-19, Communicable Disease Control, Body Composition, Exercise, Anxiety, Students, Depression, anxiety, inactivity, sedentary, nutrition


PMID: 37998276



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