Adaptability Protects University Students From Anxiety, Depression, and Insomnia During Remote Learning: A Three-Wave Longitudinal Study From China

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Frontiers in Psychiatry


The longitudinal relationship between students’ pre-existing adaptability and subsequent sleep and mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic has not been studied. The present study examines the relationship between adaptability and students’ anxiety, depression, and insomnia during and after the lockdown related to COVID-19. 5,235 university students participated in a longitudinal study with three time points. Students completed the Adaptability Scale before the outbreak (October 2019; Time 1), the Insomnia Severity Index (ISI) both during (April 2020; Time 2) and after lockdown (March 2021; Time 3), the Anxiety and Depression subscales of the SCL-90 (at Time 1 and 3), and the SAS/SDS (at Time 2). The results showed that self-reported adaptability is significantly negatively correlated with anxiety and depression, and that anxiety and depression are positively correlated with insomnia. Furthermore, adaptability protects from insomnia both directly and through its negative relationship with anxiety and depression. This study sheds light on the internal mechanisms mediating the relationship between students’ adaptability and experience of insomnia in challenging circumstances. Implications for curtailing the negative effects of stressful events on students’ sleep health by improving their adaptability and reducing their anxiety and depression are discussed.



This work was supported by the National Social Science Fund of China under Grant (21BSH098) and Shandong Social Science Foundation under Grant (21DSHJ03) awarded to KZ.