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Depression, anxiety, and stress among Ugandan university students during the COVID-19 lockdown: an online survey

Sarah Maria Najjuka
Gaudencia Checkwech
Ronald Olum
Scholastic Ashaba
Mark Mohan Kaggwa


Background: COVID19 pandemic forced most countries to lockdown, leading to the prolonged closure of many learning institutions. This dramatic shift led to increase of mental illness symptoms among university students.

Objective: To determine the prevalence and factors associated with symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress among Uganda’s university students during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Methods: We conducted a one-month online survey using the Depression Anxiety and Stress Scale (DASS-21).

Results: Participants n=321 were enrolled with mean age, 24.8(SD=5.1) years and 198(61.7%) were males. The prevalence of mental health symptoms among participants was 80.7%, 98.4%, and 77.9% for depression, high levels of anxiety,
and stress, respectively. Statistically significant association between mental health symptoms on multi-logistic regression was found with Males (depression=2.97[1.61–5.48] and stress=1.90[1.07–3.35]), engagement in leisure activity (depression= 1.87[1.01–3.49] and stress=1.98[1.10–3.56]), and being finalist (stress=0.55[0.31– 0.97]). Use of addictive substances seem to potentially alleviate symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress in the short term. 

Conclusions: The findings of this study suggest a high prevalence of symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress among university students during the COVID-19 lockdown. Students’ mental health should be monitored by all stakeholders, especially as the pandemic progresses.

Keywords: COVID-19 lockdown; University students; Mental health.

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1729-0503
print ISSN: 1680-6905