Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on College Student Mental Health and Wellness.
OBJECTIVE: To test the impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID) pandemic on the emotions, behavior, and wellness behaviors of first-year college students. METHOD: A total of 675 first-year university students completed a full assessment of behavioral and emotional functioning at the beginning of the spring semester 2020. Of these, 576 completed the same assessment at the end of the spring semester, 600 completed at least 1 item from a COVID-related survey after the onset of COVID pandemic, and 485 completed nightly surveys of mood and wellness behaviors on a regular basis before and after the onset of the COVID crisis. RESULTS: Externalizing problems (mean = -0.19, 95% CI = -0.06 to 0.33, p = .004) and attention problems (mean = -0.60, 95% CI = -0.40 to 0.80, p < .001) increased after the onset of COVID, but not internalizing symptoms (mean = 0.18, 95% CI = -0.1 to 0.38, p = .06). Students who were enrolled in a campus wellness program were less affected by COVID in terms of internalizing symptoms (β = 0.40, SE = 0.21, p = .055) and attention problems (β = 0.59, SE = 0.21, p = .005) than those who were not in the wellness program. Nightly surveys of both mood (β = -0.10, SE = 0.03, p = .003) and daily wellness behaviors (β = -0.06, SE = 0.03, p = .036), but not stress (β = 0.02, SE = 0.03, p = .58), were negatively affected by the COVID crisis. The overall magnitude of these COVID-related changes were modest but persistent across the rest of the semester and different from patterns observed in a prior year. CONCLUSION: COVID and associated educational/governmental mitigation strategies had a modest but persistent impact on mood and wellness behaviors of first-year university students. Colleges should prepare to address the continued mental health impacts of the pandemic.
Copeland, WE; McGinnis, E; Bai, Y; Adams, Z; Nardone, H; Devadanam, V; Rettew, J; Hudziak, JJ
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