Background: After the outbreak of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), this study aimed to (1) identify whether the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on students’ academic achievement differed according to their sex among Korean adolescents, and (2) investigate the health-related behavioral factors affecting their academic achievement during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Methods: Herein, secondary data of the cross-sectional 15th–17th (2019–2021) Korea Youth Risk Behavior Web-based Survey were used, targeting adolescents in middle and high school. A total of 167,099 individuals were selected and analyzed for selfreported academic grades and health behaviors using ordinal logistic regression analysis of the obtained results were compared to the pre-COVID-19 pandemic data in this regard (2019).
Results: High academic achievement in male adolescents significantly declined from 15.4% to 13.7% or 14.0% in 2019, 2020, and 2021, respectively. Compared to 2019, lower academic achievement was found in boys in 2020 and 2021 (odds ratio [OR]=0.93,95% confidence interval [CI]=0.89-0.97, P=0.002 and OR=0.95, 95% CI=0.91-0.99, P=0.010) while no significant differences were observed in girls. In boys in 2020 or 2021, the lowered academic achievement was associated with the time of internet use for leisure during both weekdays and weekends, unhealthy health status, poor self-perceived health, a “fat” body image, stress, and skipping breakfast, stress, which increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as engaging in personal hygiene, smoking, and alcohol drinking (P<0.05).
Conclusions: To improve academic achievement in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it is necessary to develop and implement interventions, especially for male students, focusing on health management and targeting the associated health behaviors.