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In Frontiers in psychology ; h5-index 92.0

The COVID-19 pandemic affects all population segments and is especially detrimental to university students because social interaction is critical for a rewarding campus life and valuable learning experiences. In particular, with the suspension of in-person activities and the adoption of virtual teaching modalities, university students face drastic changes in their physical activities, academic careers, and mental health. Our study applies a machine learning approach to explore the gender differences among U.S. university students in response to the global pandemic. Leveraging a proprietary survey dataset collected from 322 U.S. university students, we employ association rule mining (ARM) techniques to identify and compare psychological, cognitive, and behavioral patterns among male and female participants. To formulate our task under the conventional ARM framework, we model each unique question-answer pair of the survey questionnaire as a market basket item. Consequently, each participant's survey report is analogous to a customer's transaction on a collection of items. Our findings suggest that significant differences exist between the two gender groups in psychological distress and coping strategies. In addition, the two groups exhibit minor differences in cognitive patterns and consistent preventive behaviors. The identified gender differences could help professional institutions to facilitate customized advising or counseling for males and females in periods of unprecedented challenges.

Zhao Yijun, Ding Yi, Shen Yangqian, Liu Wei


COVID-19, association rule mining, gender difference, mental health, university student