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How do you feel during these hard times? A longitudinal study to examine the ebb and flow of academics’ affect during a COVID-19 lockdown

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The COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences have put a lot of strain on the world’s population, including academics. Universities were closed or went online worldwide due to lockdown regulations. In Malaysia, the first strict lockdown started on March 18th 2020 and was extended until May 12th 2020. The purpose of this four-month study is to examine the hypothesized change in affective states among academics during and after the initial lockdown in this country. To explore patterns of change in both positive and negative affective states, we employed multivariate latent growth curve (LGC) modeling and analyzed data from 214 academics at three distinct time points: at the onset of the COVID-19 lockdown, at its conclusion, and two months thereafter. While we did not observe a significant linear change in affective states, the considerable variability around the means of academics' positive and negative affective states prompted us to adopt an exploratory approach to further investigate whether four time-invariant covariates assumed to remain constant throughout the four-month study period (i.e., academic rank, disciplinary background, gender, and experience outside higher education) could account for these variations. Our results showed that academic rank significantly accounted for differences in academics’ affective states. From a practical perspective, our results suggest that policies should be revisited to increase the positive affect level as well as to minimize the negative affect level experienced by academics during any future pandemics. These policies, irrespective of academics’ disciplinary background, can be universally implemented for male and female academics or academics with and without previous work experience outside higher education. Nevertheless, the policies for high and low rank academics should be tailored to those groups.

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The dataset used to estimate the final conditional LGC model has been published at HARVARD DATAVERSE and is accessible here:


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The author would like to thank Lena Frömbling for her recommendations on an earlier version of this article and dedicates the paper to Zeynab Khodaei, Ilia Ghasemy, and Aria Ghasemy.


This research was supported by the grant FRGS/1/2019/SS05/USM/02/5 from the Ministry of Higher Education Malaysia to Majid Ghasemy.

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Correspondence to Majid Ghasemy.

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The authors do not have financial or non-financial interests that are directly or indirectly related to the work.

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The performed procedures were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee (USM/JEPeM/19090523) and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments, or comparable ethical standards. Participation in the survey was voluntary, the participants could leave the study at any time, information was anonymized, and the paper does not include images that might identify the participants.

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Ghasemy, M. How do you feel during these hard times? A longitudinal study to examine the ebb and flow of academics’ affect during a COVID-19 lockdown. High Educ (2024).

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