A new study led by Montclair State University faculty members and doctoral students found that college students at the epicenter of the pandemic were severely affected by academic, financial and COVID-related stressors.
The study, titled “The Psychological, Academic, and Economic Impact of COVID-19 on College Students in the Epicenter of the Pandemic,” is the largest study of its kind and surveyed more than 4,700 students from both public and private institutions in New York and New Jersey during the spring 2020 semester.
The findings show that the pandemic affected the mental health of the entire sample, and self-reports showed students of color in particular were disproportionately affected by financial stressors. Faculty member Jazmin A. Reyes-Portillo says that feelings of depression, anxiety and hopelessness, sleep problems and increased social isolation are factors that can heighten students’ risk of experiencing suicidal thoughts or behaviors.
“Given how extraordinary these events are, it’s important to document how it’s affected college students, who are particularly vulnerable,” says Reyes-Portillo. “But young adulthood is a high-risk period for the onset of mental health problems, even without a major stressor like the pandemic. It’s a period of immense growth and personal change. Add in COVID, and it’s a one-in-100-year event that we felt was important to highlight.”