Seemingly overnight, the COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the traditional university model. For almost an entire year, millions of students have shifted to online learning, spending hours in virtual classrooms.
The pandemic hasn't just changed the way students learn — it's also affecting students' mental health. According to a Journal of Medical Internet Research study, 7 in 10 college students report increased stress and anxiety related to the pandemic.
College students report heightened levels of stress, anxiety and depressive thoughts
Pandemic safety measures have uprooted college students out of dorms, enforced mandatory testing and closed campus buildings — the list goes on. While these measures were implemented to keep students as safe as possible during the pandemic, there have also been negative mental health impacts, as students struggle to cope with drastic changes in their daily lives.
The 71% of students who reported feeling stress and anxiety from the pandemic cited the following impacts on their mental health:
- Fear and worry about their health and loved ones: 91%
- Difficulty in concentrating: 89%
- Disruptions to sleep: 86%
- Decreased social interactions: 86%
- Increased concerns on academic performance: 82%
While most of these concerns were related to personal health and well-being, decreased social interactions have also played a major role in declining health. Social distancing orders have left students feeling isolated from their peers.
In addition, the study found that only 5% who perceived increased stress and anxiety have used mental health services. In comparison, a recent survey found that 46% of adults have either sought out help for anxiety and depression or considered doing so.
Majority of students cite health and safety as their primary concern
Of all the concerns surfacing from the pandemic, 91% of college students are most worried about their personal health and the health of their loved ones. These participants were concerned about the following:
- Family members and vulnerable relatives: 43%
- Family members with essential jobs and health care workers, leading to increased exposure: 15%
- Contracting the virus: 11%
Since the virus has proven to affect older and at-risk populations heavily, it's no surprise that college students are anxious over their relatives' well-being. Another survey found that over 6 million people have lost health care coverage from February 2020 to September 2020, resulting in increased concerns over health and safety.
Methodology: The Journal of Medical Internet Research sampled 195 students, mostly at a large undergraduate institution. The survey was first published in June 2020.