Beliefs in Conspiracy Theories and Mental Health in the Student Community of Latvia During the COVID-19 Outbreak

Julija Vorobjova (Coresponding Author), Sindija Mairita Pilaga, Madara Mikelsone, Elmars Rancans, Daria Smirnova, Konstantinos N Fountoulakis, Jeļena Vrubļevska

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Abstract

BACKGROUND: The objective of this study was to investigate self-reported changes in mental health and their association with various sociodemographic factors and beliefs in conspiracy theories among university and college students in Latvia during the second state of emergency caused by COVID-19.

SUBJECTS AND METHODS: This cross-sectional study was conducted as part of an international research project, where university and college students were anonymously asked to complete an online self-report questionnaire. Changes in anxiety and depression were assessed using self-rated questions. Statistical analysis involved Pearson's chi-square test and univariate binary logistic regression.ression.

RESULTS: The study comprised 1047 students, with 828 females (79.08% aged 21.71±0.09). Worsening in self-reported anxiety was more prevalent among females (69.3%, p<0.001), unemployed respondents (70.0%, p=0.003), individuals who were were not working during the lockdown (70.3%, p<0.001), those experiencing deterioration in general health condition (93.0%, p<0.001), and those belonging to or having knowledge of someone in a vulnerable group (69.5%, p=0.004). Worsening self-reported depression was more prevalent in respondents who did not work during the lockdown (63.9%, p=0.014) and those with deteriorating general health conditions (93.0%, p<0.001). Increased odds ratios (OR) for experiencing changes in anxiety and depression were associated with beliefs in the following conspiracy theories: 'Recommended measures are an attempt to restrict human rights' (OR=1.49, p=0.019 and OR=2.40, p<0.001, respectively). Furthermore, increased OR for experiencing changes in depression were associated with beliefs in the following conspiracy theories: 'The COVID-19 vaccine was ready before the virus spread' (OR=3.11, p=0.007), 'COVID-19 has a lower mortality rate" (OR=1.85, p<0.001)', 'Recommended measures are an attempt to restrict human rights' (OR=2.40, p<0.001), and 'The COVID-19 outbreak is the creation of world leaders' (OR=2.17, p=0.003).

CONCLUSIONS: Self-reported changes in depression and anxiety were associated with certain beliefs in specific conspiracy theories.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)271-281
Number of pages11
JournalPsychiatria Danubina
Volume35
Issue numberSuppl. 2
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2023

Keywords*

  • COVID-19
  • conspiracy theories
  • students
  • depression
  • anxiety

Field of Science*

  • 3.1 Basic medicine
  • 3.3 Health sciences

Publication Type*

  • 1.1. Scientific article indexed in Web of Science and/or Scopus database

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