The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbates the risk for mental health issues of university students. The aims of the study were to investigate the prevalence of anxiety, depression and stress among university students during the period of the first lockdown in Germany, and the associations of possible risk and protective factors with all three outcome variables.
A total of 2.548 university students were included in the study. The study took place during the period of the first lockdown in Germany. Multiple hierarchical regression analyses were conducted to explore the role of demographic variables, personality traits, psychological capital variables, mindfulness, COVID-19 related variables, and coping strategies on anxiety, depression and stress.
Results showed on average mild depressive and anxiety symptoms, and moderate perceived stress among the students. Alarmingly, 35.9% of the students showed a moderate-to-severe level of depression, 27.7% reported moderate to severe symptoms of anxiety, and 25.1% perceived high stress. Mindfulness and optimism were the most relevant protective factors against depression, anxiety and stress, whereas COVID-related stressors (e.g., worries about study and financial problems, being stressed by the Corona-pandemic and media reporting, quarantine experience) as well as personal characteristics (e.g., neuroticism, older age, being female) were risk factors for increasing mental health issues and/ or stress.
The pandemic has negatively affected the mental health of students. The results emphasize the importance of both professional help for students with mental health problems and effective prevention programs on university campuses that promote coping skills, and mental health during the current pandemic.