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Student Wellness During COVID-19

College students in a “constant” state of anxiety aren’t getting mental health counseling despite studying more and sleeping less.

WASHINGTON, DC and SAN FRANCISCO, CA (OCTOBER 29, 2020) — Despite rising anxiety stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, college students are drinking less, and report decreased cannabis use according to a survey released today by Course Hero, in collaboration with the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA). The survey suggests that stressed-out students are, however, not taking advantage of on-campus supports like mental health counseling.

”While it is encouraging to learn students are turning less to unhealthy behaviors in response to increased stress, it is troubling to see that, while the right resources may exist, students are rarely accessing them. Now more than ever, it’s important institutions and student affairs leaders consider how to more effectively connect students with support services,” said Kevin Kruger, president of NASPA. “Now that students have returned for the fall semester, either in-person or remotely, it’s imperative that college and university leaders understand their mental health needs in order to provide them with the social and emotional support they need.”

Conducted by national student research and analytics firm College Pulse, the survey of more than 3,500 students enrolled in four-year degree programs was designed to gauge students’ experiences during the pandemic, their return to campus, and the support they are receiving from institutions.

“College students are facing tremendous levels of stress and anxiety as a result of the pandemic. They are grappling with not just interruptions in learning or social experiences, but homelessness and food insecurity resulting from the shift to remote learning,” said Andrew Grauer, CEO of Course Hero. “This work is about listening, to understand the realities that students are facing to inform the field, and enable a more targeted, thoughtful response.”

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Among the key findings, the survey shows:

  • Nearly 1 in 5 students report “constant” anxiety about the pandemic. Overall, more than half (56%) of all students reported their anxiety level as at least “somewhat anxious,” a number that is higher for female students (62%) than for male students (43%). One in six students (17%) reported they had no anxiety around the pandemic.
  • Students are drinking less, and report decreased cannabis use, in response to increased stress and anxiety. Sixty-two percent of students are drinking less or no alcohol during the pandemic, and 84% of students report using less or no cannabis. Many students also report that they are spending more time cooking (40%) and exercising (19%).
  • Students of color (and specifically Black students) were more likely to report frequently using emergency services provided by their university, like food and housing support, than white students (13% compared to 7%).
  • Students who identify as non-straight (LGBTQIA+) report experiencing more stress and anxiety in the last several months compared to students who identify as straight — but LGBTQIA+ students are also more likely to report getting support from friends, family, or counselors.
  • Most students are turning to informal support networks to address stress and anxiety during the pandemic. Seventy-seven percent of students report they haven’t used tele-health, tele-counseling, grief counseling, or emergency services provided by their college during this time. Instead, students are more likely to report turning to friends (64%), parents (45%), and significant others (30%) for emotional support.
  • Students are less likely to put trust in their peers and administrators than in their professors or friends to make the right decisions related to COVID-19. Forty-four percent of students express distrust in their peers and 25% express distrust in their college’s administrators, compared with 10% for professors and 11% for friends.
  • Students are spending more time on coursework than before the pandemic. Fifty-five percent of students report spending more time on homework and assignments compared to the spring semester, and half have also increased their time on social media (50%). Students also report spending less time sleeping (38%) and exercising (44%) now compared to in the spring.
  • Staying engaged in online classes has been challenging. More than 70% of students identified engagement with their coursework—which has largely shifted online amid the pandemic—as a primary challenge. Closely following are maintaining relationships with their friends (63%) and their mental health (60%). Almost half (48%) worry about getting a job after they graduate.
  • Four-in-ten students disapprove of their college’s decision regarding how Fall 2020 instruction was offered. More than half (56%) of students are attending their college exclusively online, compared to 42% of students who are attending college under a hybrid model, both online and in-person. Regardless of how students are attending their courses, they are equally likely to approve of their college’s response.

“The ongoing uncertainty created by the pandemic has made it more important than ever to elevate the voices of college students and understand the ways in which COVID-19 is affecting them emotionally as well as academically,” said Terren Klein, co-founder and CEO of College Pulse. “By learning about students’ social and emotional needs and their experiences seeking help, institutions can be more strategic about the services in which they invest— and more proactive in ensuring that those services are utilized by those who need them most.”

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About NASPA

NASPA is the leading association for the advancement, health, and sustainability of the student affairs profession. Our work provides high-quality professional development, advocacy, and research for 15,000 members in all 50 states, 25 countries, and 8 U.S. territories.  

About Course Hero
Course Hero is an online learning platform where you can access over 40 million course-specific study resources contributed by a community of students and educators. You’ll find practice problems, study guides, videos, class notes, and step-by-step explanations for every subject you’re studying — from economics to literature, biology to history, accounting to psychology, and everything in between. We help you quickly find what you need so you can learn deeply.

About College Pulse
College Pulse is a survey research and analytics company dedicated to understanding the attitudes, preferences and behaviors of today’s college students. College Pulse delivers custom data-driven marketing and research solutions, utilizing its unique American College Student Panel™ that includes over 400,000 undergraduate college student respondents from more than 1,000 two- and four-year colleges and universities in all 50 states.

What Is Course Hero?

Course Hero is an online learning platform where you can access course-specific study resources contributed by a community of students and educators.