Psychological impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic among portuguese and swiss higher-education students: protocol for a mixed methods study

Ana Querido*, Djamel Aissaoui, Maria dos Anjos Dixe, Françoise Schwander-Maire, Tanya Cara-Nova, Zaida Charepe, Carlos Laranjeira

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Higher-education students are particularly vulnerable to both everyday stressors and mental health problems. Public health emergencies may generate a range of unforeseen potential stressors for vulnerable individuals and communities. The current pandemic has apparently led to an increase in psychiatric symptoms among these students. Objective: The goal of this study is to characterize the psychological impact of the COVID-19 pandemic among Portuguese and Swiss higher-education students. Methods: This project will use a mixed methods sequential explanatory design in Portugal and Switzerland, with two consecutive phases. During Phase I, a quantitative study will assess the psychological responses of higher-education students during the COVID-19 pandemic. A convenience sampling method will be used for collecting information from students. The association between variables will be determined with univariable and multivariable analyses. During Phase II, qualitative data will be collected in order to understand the determinants of psychological stress and the strategies adopted by students as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as to identify their opinions and feelings about the teaching-learning process during quarantine. In this phase, participants will be selected using a maximum-variation sampling method. Data from focus group discussions will be coded and inductively analyzed using a thematic analysis approach. Finally, quantitative and qualitative results will be merged during interpretation to provide complementary perspectives. Results: This paper describes and discusses the protocol for this mixed methods study, which will be completed in December 2021. This study was formally approved by the local ethics committee (CE/IPLEIRIA/22/2020) in Portugal and authorized by the Swiss Association of Research Ethics Committees, swissethics (CER-VD-2020-02889). Conclusions: This research can contribute to the development of teaching tools and methods that reinforce positive mental health strategies, hope, and adaptive coping among students, and to the development of a class on mental health interventions in the context of catastrophic and traumatic events. This project will also help government stakeholders as well as health and education professionals safeguard the psychological well-being of students facing an expanding COVID-19 pandemic.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere28757
Number of pages11
JournalJMIR Research Protocols
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021


  • COVID-19
  • Mental health
  • Pandemic
  • Students
  • Study protocol


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