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Increased Levels of Anxiety Among Medical and Non-Medical University Students During the COVID-19 Pandemic in the United Arab Emirates

Authors Saddik B, Hussein A, Sharif-Askari FS, Kheder W, Temsah MH, Koutaich RA, Haddad ES, Al-Roub NM, Marhoon FA, Hamid Q, Halwani R

Received 22 July 2020

Accepted for publication 1 October 2020

Published 3 November 2020 Volume 2020:13 Pages 2395—2406


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 4

Editor who approved publication: Professor Marco Carotenuto

Basema Saddik,1,2 Amal Hussein,1 Fatemeh Saheb Sharif-Askari,2 Waad Kheder,3 Mohamad-Hani Temsah,4 Rim Adnan Koutaich,5 Enad Sami Haddad,5 Nora Marwan Al-Roub,5 Fatema Adel Marhoon,5 Qutayba Hamid,2,5 Rabih Halwani2,5

1Department of Family and Community Medicine, College of Medicine, University of Sharjah, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates; 2Sharjah Institute of Medical Research, College of Medicine, University of Sharjah, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates; 3College of Dental Medicine, University of Sharjah, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates; 4Prince Abdullah Ben Khaled Celiac Disease Research Chair, Department of Pediatrics, Faculty of Medicine, King Saud University, Saudi Arabia; 5Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Medicine, University of Sharjah, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

Correspondence: Rabih Halwani Email [email protected]

Introduction: The COVID-19 pandemic is likely to increase anxiety levels within the community and in particular medical students who are already considered psychologically vulnerable groups. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, no study has yet estimated the effect of this pandemic on university students in the UAE or its impact on the psychological well-being of medical students.
Methods and Materials: We surveyed 1485 medical (comprising medical and dental) and non-medical university students across 4 emirates within the UAE. We used an online platform to assess knowledge, sources of information, changes in hygienic behavior, perceptions of fear and worry and anxiety levels using the generalized anxiety disorder 7 (GAD-7) scale. The GAD-7 score was measured at three time points: during hospital visits for medical/dental students, before the introduction of online learning and after online learning for all students.
Results: The majority of students demonstrated high levels of knowledge and utilized reliable sources of information. Non-medical students exercised higher compliance with social restrictions, while medical students practiced better hand hygiene. Almost half of students reported anxiety levels ranging from mild to severe with females reporting higher anxiety scores during hospital visits (OR=2.02, 95% CI, 1.41 to 2.91) and medical students reporting lower anxiety levels in comparison to dental students (OR=0.61, 95% CI, 0.45 to 0.84). Medical students reported higher levels of anxiety during their clinical rotations which decreased with the introduction of online learning, yet, non-medical students’ anxiety levels increased with online learning.
Conclusion: This study provides important information on the initial response and anxiety levels in university students across the UAE during the COVID-19 pandemic. The findings from our study can be used to support the development of effective screening strategies and interventions to build psychological resilience among university students during the COVID-19 pandemic or any other public health emergencies in the future.

Keywords: COVID-19, anxiety, medical students, GAD-7, United Arab Emirates

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