Students’ mental health “significantly” declined throughout pandemic, study reveals

Student mental health significantly declined throughout the coronavirus pandemic, a major study has revealed.

The research, published by the University of Bolton, adds to the growing body of evidence suggesting that young people and those from disadvantaged backgrounds have been most impacted by the outbreak.

Between June and July this year, the researchers asked 1,281 university students between the age of 18 and 23 to complete an online survey on their mental health and wellbeing, with an aim to investigate the “psychological impacts” of Covid-19.

The questionnaire asked students how much of their time they had spent worrying about the pandemic, how stressed they were about contracting the virus, and how social distancing measures had impacted on their lives.

It found that over the one month period, “psychological distress” had increased, while “overall flourishing” – defined as positivity, engagement, having healthy and satisfying relationships, a focus on physical health, and finding meaning in life – declined.

Generalized feelings of anxiety – which had already reached record levels in the months before the study took place – also declined to new lows.

Commenting on the findings, author Chathurika Kannangara said: “To our knowledge, the study appears to be the first of its kind to assess university students at two time points to track the psychological implications of Covid-19.

“Our analysis identified a significant relationship between attitudes towards COVID-19 and subsequent psychological effects.”

Ms Kannangara added that a follow up study is scheduled to take place in November.

“We hope it helps universities understand the considerable impact on their students’ mental health during the pandemic so that they can consider how to best support students coming back to study from September 2020,” she said.

The latest figures suggest that around one in four people in the UK experience a mental health problem each year, with the most common illnesses being anxiety and depression.

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