The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on College Student Mental Health: A Longitudinal Examination of Risk and Protective Factors

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By bhadmin February 2, 2021

The spread of the novel coronavirus has led to unprecedented changes in daily living. College students may face unique challenges associated with these changes. In the present study, college students (N = 205) completed a battery of questionnaires in April of 2020, after having completed similar measures 8, 5, and 2 months prior as part of a larger study. A repeated measures ANOVA suggested significantly greater depression and anxiety symptom severity during the pandemic than at any other time during the 2019-2020 academic year. Static and modifiable factors associated with psychological distress and controlling for pre-existing psychological distress were examined. Cognitive and behavioral avoidance was the most consistent predictor of psychological distress during the pandemic. Online social engagement and problematic Internet use also conferred greater risk. Women and Latinx participants were more likely to experience elevated distress during the pandemic, even when controlling for distress prior to the pandemic.

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