Loneliness and quality of life: Perceived online and offline social support among Sub-Saharan African students in China during the COVID-19 lockdowns
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School of Nursing and Health, Zhengzhou University, Zhengzhou, CHINA
Nursing and Midwifery Training College, Twifo Praso, Central Region, GHANA
School of International Education, Southern Medical University, Guangzhou, CHINA
Department of Social Work, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, HONG KONG
Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, College of Liberal Art and Social Sciences, City University of Hong Kong, Kowloon, HONG KONG
Department of Demography, College for Health, Community and Policy, The University of Texas, San Antonio, TX, USA
Publication date: 2022-10-15
Electron J Gen Med 2022;19(6):em419
The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted education globally, triggering fear and uncertainties for students. However, there is currently no research evidence to document the loneliness experience of Sub-Saharan African (SSA) students in China and how social support influenced their quality of life (QoL). This study explored the effect of COVID-19-induced loneliness and social support on the QoL of SSA students in China.

The study adopted an institutional-based cross-sectional survey through an online questionnaire on social media platforms to investigate the QoL of SSA students in Chinese universities. Pearson correlation matrix and regression analysis were conducted to validate the association of loneliness, social support (online and offline), and socio-demographic attributes on the student’s QoL.

In the population of 358 SSA students appraised in the study, loneliness experience was negatively associated with QoL. Online social support and offline social support were positively associated with QoL. The linear regression shows that loneliness, social support, and socio-demographic attributes explain 25.7% (psychological health), 26.6% (physical health), 24.9% (environmental health), and 30.3% (social relation) of the variance in the QoL domains. By evaluating the EUROHIS subjective QoL, loneliness independently accounts for 24.5% of the variance in the subjective QoL of the SSA students examined in the study (model 1). In comparison, the added effects of social supports and socio-demographic attributes on model 3 explained 32% of the subjective QoL.

It is strongly recommended that loneliness eradication programs be implemented in these universities among SSA students who experience loneliness that negates their QoL. Interventions should focus on how these students can integrate and build social networks (online and offline) to improve social interaction and support for better QoL.

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