Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, TimelyMD, a telehealth provider specializing in higher education, has commissioned surveys that capture a picture of how the pandemic is impacting students ages 18 to 29 at two-year and four-year institutions. The most recent online survey included 1,676 responses from students across the country who are currently enrolled. 57% of respondents attend public colleges or universities; 24% private colleges or universities and 19% two-year colleges.
Of the 1,672 respondents who answered questions about their ethnicity, 18.12% identified as African American, 15.49% as Latinx, 38.64% as white and 16.63% as Asian or Asian American. The purpose of the survey was to get a snapshot of how students are feeling as they enter their fifth semester impacted by the global pandemic.
“We’re trying to help both students and administrators at schools see and understand what’s going on with the students and how they’re feeling to help guide decisions of how they can best support students,” said Dr. Alan Dennington, chief medical officer and co-founder of TimelyMD. “It’s addressed to administrators at schools and people in the community to really recognize where students are at right now from a mental health perspective.”
In response to the question “Are you experiencing emotional distress/stress and/or anxiety due to the COVID-19 pandemic and/or introduction of COVID-19 variants (Omicron, Delta),” 70% of respondents answered yes and 51% indicated they are experiencing more stress/anxiety than this time last year.
“What struck me most is…88% of students are saying that they feel like there is a mental health crisis on their campus, which I understand to mean that they feel like there are mental health issues that are present in a large percentage of the population and that the demands for those aren’t being met with resources,” said Dennington.
Stress is more pronounced among women and non-binary students. 76% of female respondents and 81% of non-binary respondents noted that the pandemic has caused them stress and anxiety as opposed to 55% of male respondents. 77% of female and non-binary students reported experiencing the same or more stress/anxiety than they did a year ago.
“Young people have been in college on a campus and then are forced to go back home with a family that maybe they aren’t either out to or maybe they’re out as gay, but not necessary as non-binary because they’re either exploring or figuring that out themselves,” said Shane Windmeyer, executive director of Campus Pride, an organization that provides a range of services and information for LGBTQ college students.
Another issue impacting non-binary students is lack of proper pronouns in online learning, noted Windmeyer. “People using their pronouns respectfully has been a challenge with online learning because it’s less personal,” he said.
Other data points note that stressors include the pandemic’s impact on education (54%), impact on physical health (41%), impact on finances (34%) and inability to enjoy everything campus normally has to offer (40%). 64% said they intended to seek out emotional support from friends, family and/or campus counseling or mental health services.
Dennington said it’s important that colleges and universities recognize that health issues continue. 27% of the respondents indicated …….