The study conducted by Dr. Bertrand and colleagues involved 125 graduate and undergraduate students at the University of Saskatchewan and the University of Regina who were the most vulnerable as they were living independently or had roommates or partners, and were responsible for buying and preparing their own meals. Data was collected via an online questionnaire.
Research before the pandemic had shown that university students were already a vulnerable group. The new research found that during the pandemic,
- Students’ alcohol consumption increased significantly.
- Students ate less food during the pandemic.
- They ate 20% less meat,
- 44% less dairy products, and
- 45% fewer vegetables.
- Already prior to the pandemic only 16% were meeting the Canadian guidelines of 150 minutes of moderate to intense physical activity per week. After the pandemic it further decreased to 9.6%.
- The number of hours spent in sedentary behavior rose from eight hours to 11 hours.
- Employment decreased from 55% to 49% during the pandemic.
The authors stated that psychological distress often leads to poor diet quality. Additionally students may be using alcohol as an unhealthy and counter-productive coping tool to manage pandemic stressors, while reducing food intake to offset the lack of physical activity. Combined, these factors could lead to poor health, well-being and quality of life for students.
Our findings are important because university students, especially those most vulnerable for poor nutrition and sedentary behavior, should be targeted for interventions aimed at maintaining and improving physical activity and dietary practices during this pandemic and beyond,” said Gordon Zello, corresponding author of the study and nutrition professor, as per Eureka Alert.Gordon Zello, lead author and nutrition professor