Background: The pandemic sent billions of people around the globe to lockdown. Fear of a new epidemic, social isolation, work loss, and increased media coverage, in combination with a lack of awareness and knowledge about the pandemic, had intensified feelings of fear, depression, and anxiety. The aim of the present study was to assess the effect of online teaching, including health professional students’ psychological well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Methods: This study was conducted in four health colleges in Almaarefa University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Students studying medicine and surgery, Pharm D, respiratory therapy, and nursing were included. Kessler-10, a validated psychological distress instrument, was used to measure the psychological well-being. This instrument has been widely used in population-based epidemiological research to evaluate stress levels and was also translated into several languages, including Arabic, to assess the severity of psychological symptoms in population surveys.
Results: The prevalence of stress among female students was significantly higher (2.85 times the moderate level; ~4.0 times the severe level) than for male students (OR = 2.85 and p = 0.001 for moderate stress; OR = 3.94 and p ≤ 0.000 for severe stress) during the pandemic. Moreover, moderate stress was extremely high in fifth-year students (OR = 3.32; p = 0.01) as was severe stress.
Conclusion: Students’ psychological well-being was affected due to online learning through a pandemic. Yet, the university provided an optimal online learning system to cope with these challenges. Younger students were more affected than senior students, including those with low IT skills. The study also revealed that the COVID-19 pandemic had a substantial effect on students’ mental health, while trying to optimally function in the educational system.
Key words: Health professions; COVID-19 pandemic; Psychological well-being; Medical students; Online education system.