A new survey found students had difficulty accessing mental health care and experienced higher rates of depression after the pandemic began, prompting calls for a broad response from colleges.

Sixty percent of college students say the pandemic has made it harder to access mental health care, even as financial stresses and prevalence of depression increased among them, according to a new survey on the impact of COVID-19 on student well-being.

The survey by the Healthy Minds Network for Research on Adolescent and Young Adult Mental Health and the American College Health Association garnered results from 18,764 students on 14 campuses. Researchers say much of what they found is more confirmatory than surprising, but having the hard data will help colleges make decisions about providing mental health and well-being services to students.

Among the results:

  • Sixty-six percent of students report the pandemic has caused them more financial stress — “a known predictor of student metal health,” according to the report on the survey results — and 35.7 percent say they’ve moved to a new living situation as a result of the pandemic.
  • Prevalence of depression among college students increased since the pandemic caused the closure of campuses this spring compared to fall 2019, while prevalence of substance abuse decreased. A higher proportion of students — 30.5 percent compared to 21.9 percent the prior fall — reported that their mental health negatively affected their academic performance on at least six days during the prior four weeks.
  • About 15 percent of students report having a probable case of COVID-19, though less than 1 percent of students said the diagnosis was confirmed with a test. Among students who reported having confirmed or probable cases, 5.5 percent describe their symptoms as severe, 35.1 percent as moderate, 55.3 percent as mild and 4.1 percent said they were asymptomatic.
  • Students express high levels of concerns about how long the pandemic will last. About a quarter of students — 25.8 percent — say they are “very” or “extremely” concerned about contracting the virus, while 64.4 percent say they are “very” or “extremely” concerned about a person they care about contracting COVID-19.

Read the full article on InsideHigherEd.com.

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