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In order to address the above-cited research aims, the study employed a structured questionnaire administred to a convencience sample of students: a link to an online survey was sent by e-mail to the students of 13 higher education institutions (HEI) located in Belgium. Participants were eligible if they were enrolled in a higher education program, aged 18 or above, and provided informed consent. Data collection took place between 26 and 04-2020 and 11-05-2020 corresponding to day 39 and 54 after the stay-at-home order started. Twenty-five thousand two hundred seventy-two students started the survey and 21,270 students completed it. The study population was further reduced to 18,301 after applying additional selection criteria: age below 31 years, enrolled in a bachelor’s or master’s program, residing in Belgium during the pandemic and not having been diagnosed with COVID-19 at the time of the study. The latter group was not included to avoid interference with the stressor ‘fear of infection’.

The study is part of the COVID-19 International Student Well-being Study (C19 ISWS) in which 110 HEIs of 26 countries participated. More details about the study procedures can be found in the study protocol [17].

The 8 items of the CES-D scale, used as the response variables, did not have missing values. The percentage of missing data in other variables varied between 0.0 and 0.5%, except for perceived stigma (6.1%). Multivariate imputation by chained equations with predictive mean matching for continuous data, logistic regression imputation for binary data and polytomous regression imputation for unordered categorical data (factor > 2 levels) was used to handle the missing data under a missing at random assumption. The procedure was done using the ‘Mice’ package in R [18]. Rubin’s rules were used to pool point and SE estimates across 20 imputed data sets. The results of this approach were compared with the results of a complete case analysis.

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