Higher prevalence of food insecurity and psychological distress among international university students during the COVID-19 pandemic: an Australian perspective

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Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic and related disruptions have not only affected university students’ learning and academic outcomes, but also other issues, such as food security status, mental health and employment. In Australia, international students faced additional pressures due to sudden border closures and lack of eligibility for government-provided financial support. This study explored the experiences of domestic and international university students residing in Australia during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic across a range of outcomes. A cross-sectional online survey was conducted between July and September 2020 at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. The online survey included food insecurity status, mental health (psychological distress), disruptions to study, employment and sleep. A total of 105 students (n = 66 domestic and n = 39 international) completed the survey. Respondents reported having food insecurity (41.9%) and psychological distress (52.2%, with high and very high levels), with international students reporting significantly higher food insecurity (OR = 9.86 (95% CI 3.9–24.8), p < 0.001) and psychological distress scores (t(90) = 2.68, 95% CI: 1.30 to 8.81, p = 0.009) than domestic students. About one quarter of all respondents reported disruptions to study and employment status around the time of the survey. When asked what government support should be provided for international students, ‘financial aid’ was the most frequently suggested form of support. This research may help governments and educational institutions design appropriate support, particularly financial and psychological, for both international and domestic university students.
Original languageEnglish
Article number14101
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Volume19
Issue number21
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 28 Oct 2022

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2022. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • food insecurity
  • psychological distress
  • university students
  • international students

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