Date of Award

Summer 2022

Publication Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

K. Chandler

Second Advisor

K. Lafreniere

Third Advisor

J. Kichler






Engagement in positive coping behaviours is correlated with enhanced wellbeing, with negative coping behaviours producing the opposite effect. Of all the pandemic’s aspects, it appears that lockdowns (and the resulting social isolation) produced the most significant negative effects. Research has not yet been published on the relationship between social isolation, subjective wellbeing (SWB), and physical wellbeing (PWB) of undergraduate student populations during the pandemic, and how coping behaviours may affect this relationship. The aim of this study was to elucidate the importance of positive coping behaviours (i.e., self-care practices) as opposed to more negative coping styles (i.e., dysfunctional lifestyle behaviours) and their effects on SWB and PWB when social isolation due to a pandemic is occurring.

Data were collected from N = 150 undergraduate students, and interviews were thematically coded for n = 20 of these students. Participants completed a battery of questionnaires including demographics, measures of wellbeing and coping behaviours, and a measure of social isolation. Participants who further participated in an interview discussed their experiences with social isolation and how it had affected their wellbeing, as well as how they were experiencing their online education. Quantitative results showed a decrease in SWB from Time 1 (pre-pandemic) to Time 2 (during the height of the pandemic) when measured simultaneously. There was also found to be a strong positive correlation between SWB and self-care behaviours at Time 1 (p = .002) and Time 2 (p = .032), as well as a strong negative correlation between SWB and dysfunctional behaviours at Time 2 (p = .043). Furthermore, dysfunctional behaviour engagement was a significant moderator of the relationship between SWB and loneliness at Time 2 (p = .018). Four major common themes (coping with new stressors of COVID-19, changes in work structure during COVID-19, importance of close relationships, and importance of technology), sixteen subthemes, and several examples were generated from interview transcripts.

Possible reasons for these results are discussed, as are theoretical and practical implications, limitations, and ideas for future research. Specifically, results of this study provide important contributions and suggestions towards ensuring that the wellbeing and coping strategies of undergraduate students is considered a priority, especially in the context of a global disease pandemic.

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