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OBJECTIVES: The objectives of this study were to investigate the wellbeing trajectories of university students during the COVID-19 pandemic and identify associated protective factors. Results from the study aimed to inform wellbeing-promotion strategies and crisis-response plans in university settings. STUDY DESIGN: Systematic review. METHODS: A review of articles published in English language was conducted in PubMed, PsycINFO, Scopus, Web of Science, and ERIC databases from 1 December 2019 to 15 December 2022. Longitudinal and repeated cross-sectional studies that assessed wellbeing among university students during the COVID-19 pandemic using a validated instrument were included. Article and data extraction were performed by the primary reviewer, with a random subset verified by a second reviewer. Study quality was assessed using the National Institutes of Health 'Quality Assessment Tool for Observational Cohort and Cross-Sectional Studies'. RESULTS: Of 6651 titles screened without duplicates, 181 underwent full-text review, of which 19 were included in the current study (15 longitudinal and 4 repeated cross-sectional studies, with a total of 19,206 participants). A significant decrease in the wellbeing of university students was observed across studies during the early stages of the pandemic compared to prepandemic times; however, mixed findings were found in later phases of the pandemic, with some studies presenting an improvement in wellbeing, others no change, and two studies finding impairments. Overall, wellbeing was greater among males and was also associated with socioeconomic status, more sleep and physical activity, greater social connectedness, less alcohol use, and less social media activity. CONCLUSION: The study showed varying wellbeing trajectories across different periods of the COVID-19 pandemic. Results provide relevant information for researchers, public health professionals, and higher education institutions in charge of promoting student wellbeing and crisis preparedness. PROSPERO REGISTRATION: CRD42022383941.

Original publication




Journal article


Public Health

Publication Date





125 - 133


COVID-19 pandemic, Longitudinal, Systematic review, University students, Wellbeing changes, Male, Humans, COVID-19, Cross-Sectional Studies, Pandemics, Universities, Longitudinal Studies