Title : “Help” profession students from Israel and Japan: An examination of COVID 19 impact on loneliness and other Psycho-Emotional behaviors
Purpose: Prolonged, or severe loneliness due to the COVID-19 pandemic can have negative consequences for those experiencing it; and there is a dearth of empirical evidence about this condition among university students. The purpose of this cross-national study was to examine the association of COVID-19 on loneliness among university students from the “help” professions of medicine, nursing, social work, and psychology, and its consequences in terms of mental health, substance use and eating behavior.
Methods: Data were collected from a prospective sample of Japanese and Israeli university students. The online survey included 660 respondents – 225 Japanese and 435 Israeli, 37% male and 63% female. Data were collected from October 2021 to January 2022. The present study used research instruments to gauge the association of COVID-19 fear and its association with psycho-emotional behavior, loneliness, resilience, burnout, substance use (i.e., tobacco, alcohol, and prescription drugs), eating behavior. All instruments used for this research evidenced high reliability in Hebrew and Japanese. Statistical analysis was performed using SPSS (version 25).
Results: 31% of Israeli and 40% of Japanese students reported increased loneliness during the COVID-19 pandemic. Emotional and social related factors of loneliness were more prevalent among Japanese students. Regardless of country status, gender and religiosity were not found associated with loneliness. Two-way ANOVA of country and psycho-emotional deterioration as well as country and unhealthy eating behavior evidence significant differences in terms of loneliness. Also, COVID-19 fear and burnout were higher among Japanese students and these students evidenced lower resilience. Overall, regardless of nationality, loneliness was found to be significantly associated with fear, burnout, resilience, and substance use. In addition, a negative association was found between loneliness and age - younger students were more inclined to express loneliness.
Conclusions: Pandemic conditions tend to be associated with loneliness and psycho-emotional well-being. Current study findings from Israel and Japan confirm the association in terms of student fear, burnout, unhealthy eating behavior and substance use. Further research is needed, across locations and overtime, to verify these findings and determine the long-term consequences of the pandemic including those that may be associated with ethnic background.
Audience Take Away Notes:
The issue of mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond is a major public health challenge.
• Deterioration of the psycho-emotional well-being of “help” profession (i.e., medicine, psychology, social work, nursing) students is associated with function ability and increased loneliness.
• Preventing increased substance use (e.g., tobacco, alcohol, and prescription drugs) and harmful eating behaviour (including the intake of increased levels of salt and sugar foods) during the pandemic is a public health challenge with implications associated with managing COVID-19-related fears, stress, and loneliness. This especially important for “help” professionals who are role models for health prevention and intervention on individual and community levels.
• University leadership personnel should be concerned about the negative impact of COVID-19 on “help” profession students; and intervention measures that may be needed to strengthen and support them through contact, counselling, and other forms of psychological assistance if necessary.
• The impact of COVID-19 on students is related to national, cultural, gender, religious and other statuses. The university and its “help” profession areas of study and practice should be sensitive to these factors and take them into account for education, and intervention purposes.