Mental Health of Hong Kong University Students Under COVID-19: Protective Ecological Factors and Underlying Mechanism

Wenyu Chai, Tan Lei Shek (Corresponding Author)

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review


While the COVID-19 has brought severe challenges to university students’ mental health, there is inadequate research on the related protective factors from different ecological systems and the underlying mechanisms. Guided by the ecological systems theory and the positive youth development approach, this study investigated the associations between two protective factors in the ecological systems (i.e., positive family functioning in the microsystem and Chinese cultural beliefs of adversity in the macrosystem) and students’ mental health in Hong Kong higher education during the period of the pandemic, with resilience (i.e., an important positive youth development quality) proposed as a mediating factor. This study was based on data collected in a large-scale survey of 978 Hong Kong Chinese undergraduate students (mean age = 20.69 with 62.9% being female) in the summer of 2022. Validated measures were used to assess students’ mental health problems (anxiety and depression), the ecological protective factors (positive family functioning and Chinese cultural beliefs of adversity), and resilience. Structural equation modelling was conducted to examine the associations between ecological protective factors and mental health problems, as well as the mediating effects of resilience in the associations. Structural equation modelling revealed that both positive family functioning and Chinese cultural beliefs of adversity negatively predicted anxiety and depression, with resilience partially mediating all paths. The study contributes significantly to the understanding of different ecological protective factors in higher education students’ mental health and the mediating role of resilience. It also provides practical implications for intervention and prevention.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)921-943
Number of pages23
JournalApplied Research in Quality of Life
Issue number3
Early online date19 Jan 2024
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2024


  • COVID-19
  • Cultural beliefs of adversity
  • Family functioning
  • Mental health
  • Resilience
  • University students

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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