Original Research

Impact of COVID-19 on the mental health of optometry students at a higher education institution: A case study

Yusuf Simjee, Zothile Mncwabe, Keihara Sindhrajh, Rabia Khan, Maseeha Seedat, Letiwe Xulu, Sibahle Zondi, Nishanee Rampersad
African Vision and Eye Health | Vol 80, No 1 | a652 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/aveh.v80i1.652 | © 2021 Yusuf Simjee, Zothile Mncwabe, Keihara Sindhrajh, Rabia Khan, Maseeha Seedat, Letiwe Xulu, Sibahle Zondi, Nishanee Rampersad | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 18 January 2021 | Published: 21 September 2021

About the author(s)

Yusuf Simjee, Discipline of Optometry, School of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa
Zothile Mncwabe, Discipline of Optometry, School of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa
Keihara Sindhrajh, Discipline of Optometry, School of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa
Rabia Khan, Discipline of Optometry, School of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa
Maseeha Seedat, Discipline of Optometry, School of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa
Letiwe Xulu, Discipline of Optometry, School of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa
Sibahle Zondi, Discipline of Optometry, School of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa
Nishanee Rampersad, Discipline of Optometry, School of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa


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Abstract

Background: The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak poses serious threats to the physical and mental health of individuals worldwide. The lockdown strategy and social distancing regulations adopted in South Africa have disrupted the day-to-day life activities of all people including students.

Aim: To explore the impact of COVID-19 on the mental health of optometry students at a higher education institution.

Setting: The study population included optometry students currently registered at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, in Durban, South Africa.

Methods: The study adopted a case study research design and used an online questionnaire and follow-up interviews to collect data. The Depression Anxiety Stress Scale (DASS-21) questionnaire that assesses depression, anxiety and stress subscales was used. Data were analysed using descriptive and inferential statistics. The interview data were analysed using thematic content analysis.

Results: A total of 147 participants responded to the online questionnaire and consisted of majority black people (n = 98), female (n = 114) and second year (n = 58) students. The majority of the participants had normal scores for depression (n = 97), anxiety (n = 79) and stress (n = 107). Only a few participants had scores indicating severe or extremely severe depression (n = 13), anxiety (n = 23) and stress (n = 5). Follow-up interviews were conducted with 10 participants and of these, seven reported that COVID-19 had a negative impact on their ability to concentrate and they felt anxious about examining patients. Factors such as stigma and judgment were perceived as hindrances to seeking mental health help.

Conclusion: Most participants had normal scores for depression, anxiety and stress; however, some participants presented with abnormal scores. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health should be highlighted and higher education authorities should plan and provide appropriate services to improve the quality of life of affected students.


Keywords

mental health; COVID-19; student wellness; higher education institution; Depression Anxiety Stress Scale questionnaire

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