This project studies the impact of restriction of physical activity opportunities due to COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on mental health and psychological well-being of undergraduate university students (19-24 years old) in England.
University students are increasingly a vulnerable population, suffering from higher levels of anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and eating disorders. Therefore, when the nature of their educational experience radically changes—such as sheltering in place during the COVID-19 pandemic—the burden on the mental health of this vulnerable population is amplified.
The objectives of this study are to
1) identify the array of psychological impacts COVID-19 has on students,
2) develop profiles to characterize students’ anticipated levels of psychological impact during the pandemic, and
3) evaluate potential sociodemographic, lifestyle-related, and awareness of people infected with COVID-19 risk factors that could make students more likely to experience these impacts.
Mental Health methods
Cross-sectional data from web questionnaires from seven U.S. universities. Representative and convenience sampling was used to invite students to complete the questionnaires. In mid-March to early-May 2020 when most coronavirus-related sheltering in place orders were in effect. We received 2,534 completed responses, of which 61% were from women, 79% from non-Hispanic Whites, and 20% from graduate students.
Exploratory factor analysis on close-ended responses resulted in two latent constructs. Which helps to identify profiles of students with latent profile analysis. Including high (45% of the sample), moderate (40%), and low (14%) levels of psychological impact. Bivariate associations showed students who were women, were non-Hispanic Asian, in fair/poor health, of below-average relative family income, or who knew someone infected with COVID-19 experienced higher levels of psychological impact on mental health.
Students who were non-Hispanic White, above-average social class, spent at least two hours outside. Or less than eight hours on electronic screens were likely to experience lower levels of psychological impact. Multivariate modeling (mixed-effects logistic regression) shows that being a woman, having fair/poor general health status, being 18 to 24 years old, spending 8 or more hours on screens daily, and knowing someone infected predicted higher levels of mental health impact when risk factors were considered simultaneously.
Inadequate efforts to recognize and address college students’ mental health challenges. Especially during a pandemic, could have long-term consequences on their health and education.