‘Stuck in a box’: Around half of UAntwerpen students felt depressed
Share article:
Share article:

‘Stuck in a box’: Around half of UAntwerpen students felt depressed

Credit: Andrea Piacquadio/ Pexels

Almost half of the students at the University of Antwerp (UAntwerpen) struggled with feelings of depression at the end of the last schoolyear, mainly as a result of the pandemic, according to a recent survey.

Of around 2,000 surveyed students, 45% indicated they felt depressed, in part due to the lingering feeling of the pandemic, as well as the limitation in freedom in terms of social contact with other students, according to researchers of the Centre for Population, Family & Health (CPFH) at UAntwerpen.

“Students had less contact with fellow students, which meant they could only support each other to a limited extent on both a study and emotional level,” said Nina Van Eekert, a sociologist who led the study, adding that this largely resulted in 42% of students reporting they felt isolated.

She added that many respondents felt even stronger pressure to constantly be preoccupied with their studies, as the pandemic resulted in hobbies and student jobs no longer taking up some of their time. One student interviewed by Van Eekert said: “I really just feel like someone who sits in a box and has to study.”

Related News


Despite these damning results, Van Eekert highlighted that students’ experience of the pandemic varied and that “while some students eagerly awaited the reopening of cafés and restaurants, others benefited from some social peace.”

When it comes to online learning, many indicated that they found the online teaching modes such as a chat function to ask professors questions and classes being recorded helpful,  as it gave them the flexibility to follow courses at their own pace, adding that they would like this option to be continued.

Tackling the broader issue

Although students are now able to return to campus full-time and have gained more freedoms outside of schools, the study’s researchers argued that it will take time for them to process this period in their life.

One positive effect of the pandemic, however, was that the topic of mental well-being among students was put on the social and university agenda with a certain urgency. Van Eekert stressed that this topic must and will remain relevant.

A recent KU Leuven university study, which showed that around one in seven students (roughly 14%) starts self-harming during their time as students, highlighted that the worsening mental-wellbeing of Belgium’s student population should be tackled more generally.

The study’s researchers stressed that students need to realise that they are not alone and that “help is definitely available.”

This is why UAntwerpen researchers are pleading for the current momentum around mental well-being to actively and permanently be at the core focus within universities and their policies, and for it to be used to provide a long-term solution.

According to the university’s students, so far, the discourse on their mental well-being heavily focuses on their study performance, which is not necessarily a measure of how they feel, and in general, the topic is not discussed enough by the university itself.

“We have to arm our students against a society and a labour market in which mental wellbeing is increasingly being challenged. Studying is more than knowledge reproduction alone,” Van Eekert concluded.

Latest news

Mayor wants to close two Brussels bars where alleged sexual assaults took place
Ixelles' Mayor Christos Doulkeridis (Ecolo) said that she’d like to close the two bars that employed a man accused of raping multiple patrons, ...
‘Untenable’: Mayor says situation at Brussels North station is out of control
The situation at Brussels North Station is no longer tenable, Schaerbeek's mayor Cécile Jodogne (Défi) says. Drug dealing, homelessness, ...
Suicide second-leading cause of death among European youth
Suicide is the number two killer among young people living in Europe, a recent Unicef report on the state of their mental health found. The ...
‘Too little, too late’: Brussels mayors criticise CST implementation
After a two week delay, the Covid Safe Ticket (CST) will become mandatory in several situations in Brussels from today (Friday). Some mayors blame a ...
Sciensano expert warns of rising Covid-19 cases this winter
The return of colder weather and the relaxing of health measures are giving rise to new Covid-19 contaminations and hospitalisations around Belgium, ...
Hospital food is making you sick, Belgian study shows
Eating hospital meals results in a measurable decline in health, according to a report from the Flemish television network VTM, which paints a ...
Belgium in Brief: Supply Issues
There are few things more jarring than walking into a store and finding that the shelves are empty, be that partially or otherwise. One thing ...
Stolen Magritte painting on display for first time in ten years
Surrealist painter René Magritte's work "Olympia", which made headlines across the world when it was stolen from a museum in Belgium in 2009, will be ...
Brussels airport pilots ’15 minute’ PCR test
Brussels Airport has announced that it will soon begin a trial of an ultra-fast PCR test able to detect Covid-19 in 15 minutes, a far faster ...
Over 1,000 demonstrators march in Brussels following sexual assault allegations
Around 1,300 people gathered in Ixelles on Thursday night to march against sexual violence, according to reporting from Bruzz. The march was ...
Covid Safe Ticket mandatory in Brussels, but no fines yet
The Brussels-Capital Region will expand the use of the Covid Safe Ticket (CST) from today (Friday), but it will take a few days before rule-breakers ...
Belgium hosts ‘farewell party’ for Merkel today
Angela Merkel will be in Belgium on Friday for an official visit as a symbolic "farewell" before leaving her position as German Chancellor after 16 ...