Original Research

Mental health and well-being of university staff during the coronavirus disease 2019 levels 4 and 5 lockdown in an Eastern Cape university, South Africa

Rudolph L. van Niekerk, Maria M. van Gent
South African Journal of Psychiatry | Vol 27 | a1589 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajpsychiatry.v27i0.1589 | © 2021 Rudolph L. van Niekerk, Maria M. van Gent | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 15 July 2020 | Published: 08 March 2021

About the author(s)

Rudolph L. van Niekerk, Department of Human Movement Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences, Fort Hare University, Alice, South Africa
Maria M. van Gent, Department of Human Movement Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences, Fort Hare University, Alice, South Africa

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Background: The mental health of university staff members is often neglected and might have been exacerbated during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

Aim: The aim of this study was to determine the mental health and well-being of staff members in an Eastern Cape university just after levels 4 and 5 lockdowns (01 June 2020) in South Africa.

Setting: The university was closed during lockdown and staff members had to work from home, trying to save the 2020 academic year.

Methods: A cross-sectional exploratory survey of a sample of 280 staff members (response rate = 27.75%), with a mean age of 48.84 ± 10.17 years, completed the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K10) and Mental Health Continuum – Short Form (MHC-SF).

Results: A number (27.6%) of staff members reported psychological distress, whilst the majority (60%) was flourishing during lockdown. Socio-economic collapse, contracting the virus and the completion of the academic year were their biggest worries. Whilst a strong negative correlation between psychological distress and mental well-being (MWB) was observed (r = −0.595), age had an inverse correlation with psychological distress (r = −0.130) and a positive correlation with MWB (r = 0.153). Female staff members, staff members with comorbidities and workers in the administration and service sections were significantly more likely to report psychological distress. The mental health of female staff members and members with comorbidities were almost two times more at risk for psychological distress.

Conclusion: The mental health and well-being of some university staff members were at an increased risk during lockdown.


COVID-19; pandemic; mental health; mental well-being; university; staff members; risk; academic


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Crossref Citations

1. Covid-19 (in) a Class of Its Own: Student and Teacher Musings Regarding Their Learnings and Well-Being when Moving a Large Blended First Year Class Virtually Overnight
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doi: 10.3389/feduc.2021.639466