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      The impact of the COVID-19 epidemic on mental health of undergraduate students in New Jersey, cross-sectional study

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          Abstract

          Objective

          The COVID-19 pandemic has been a period of upheaval for college students. The objective of this study was to assess the factors associated with the increased levels of mental health burden among a sample of undergraduate college students in Northern New Jersey, the region of the U.S. severely impacted by the outbreak of COVID-19.

          Methods

          College students (N = 162) enrolled in an introductory core curriculum course completed a cross-sectional survey. The survey collected information on demographics, knowledge levels and sources of COVID-19 information, behavior changes, academic and everyday difficulties, and mental health measurements (depression, anxiety, somatization, and stress). Multivariable regression analysis was performed to identify factors associated with mental health outcomes.

          Results

          Descriptive findings indicate that students have a fundamental knowledge of COVID-19 transmission and common symptoms. Students tend to use and trust the official sources and have changed their behaviors in accordance with public health recommendations (i.e., increased hand washing, wearing mask). However, students reported a number of academic and everyday difficulties and high levels of mental health distress. High levels of depression were associated with difficulties in focusing on academic work and with employment losses, while higher levels of anxiety were more likely to be reported by students other than freshmen and those who spend more than one hour per day looking for information on COVID-19. Inability to focus on academic work and an elevated concern with COVID-19 were more likely to be associated with higher levels of somatization, while trusting news sources was associated with lower levels of somatization. Those with higher levels of perceived stress were more likely to be females, unable to focus on academic work, and report difficulties in obtaining medications and cleaning supplies.

          Conclusions

          The COVID-19 pandemic is making a significant negative impact on mental health of college students. Proactive efforts to support the mental health and well-being of students are needed.

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          Most cited references32

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          Immediate Psychological Responses and Associated Factors during the Initial Stage of the 2019 Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Epidemic among the General Population in China

          Background: The 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) epidemic is a public health emergency of international concern and poses a challenge to psychological resilience. Research data are needed to develop evidence-driven strategies to reduce adverse psychological impacts and psychiatric symptoms during the epidemic. The aim of this study was to survey the general public in China to better understand their levels of psychological impact, anxiety, depression, and stress during the initial stage of the COVID-19 outbreak. The data will be used for future reference. Methods: From 31 January to 2 February 2020, we conducted an online survey using snowball sampling techniques. The online survey collected information on demographic data, physical symptoms in the past 14 days, contact history with COVID-19, knowledge and concerns about COVID-19, precautionary measures against COVID-19, and additional information required with respect to COVID-19. Psychological impact was assessed by the Impact of Event Scale-Revised (IES-R), and mental health status was assessed by the Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale (DASS-21). Results: This study included 1210 respondents from 194 cities in China. In total, 53.8% of respondents rated the psychological impact of the outbreak as moderate or severe; 16.5% reported moderate to severe depressive symptoms; 28.8% reported moderate to severe anxiety symptoms; and 8.1% reported moderate to severe stress levels. Most respondents spent 20–24 h per day at home (84.7%); were worried about their family members contracting COVID-19 (75.2%); and were satisfied with the amount of health information available (75.1%). Female gender, student status, specific physical symptoms (e.g., myalgia, dizziness, coryza), and poor self-rated health status were significantly associated with a greater psychological impact of the outbreak and higher levels of stress, anxiety, and depression (p < 0.05). Specific up-to-date and accurate health information (e.g., treatment, local outbreak situation) and particular precautionary measures (e.g., hand hygiene, wearing a mask) were associated with a lower psychological impact of the outbreak and lower levels of stress, anxiety, and depression (p < 0.05). Conclusions: During the initial phase of the COVID-19 outbreak in China, more than half of the respondents rated the psychological impact as moderate-to-severe, and about one-third reported moderate-to-severe anxiety. Our findings identify factors associated with a lower level of psychological impact and better mental health status that can be used to formulate psychological interventions to improve the mental health of vulnerable groups during the COVID-19 epidemic.
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            Factors Associated With Mental Health Outcomes Among Health Care Workers Exposed to Coronavirus Disease 2019

            Key Points Question What factors are associated with mental health outcomes among health care workers in China who are treating patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)? Findings In this cross-sectional study of 1257 health care workers in 34 hospitals equipped with fever clinics or wards for patients with COVID-19 in multiple regions of China, a considerable proportion of health care workers reported experiencing symptoms of depression, anxiety, insomnia, and distress, especially women, nurses, those in Wuhan, and front-line health care workers directly engaged in diagnosing, treating, or providing nursing care to patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19. Meaning These findings suggest that, among Chinese health care workers exposed to COVID-19, women, nurses, those in Wuhan, and front-line health care workers have a high risk of developing unfavorable mental health outcomes and may need psychological support or interventions.
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              The psychological impact of the COVID-19 epidemic on college students in China

              Highlights • Methods of guiding students to effectively and appropriately regulate their emotions during public health emergencies and avoid losses caused by crisis events have become an urgent problem for colleges and universities. Therefore, we investigated and analyzed the mental health status of college students during the epidemic for the following purposes. (1) To evaluate the mental situation of college students during the epidemic; (2) to provide a theoretical basis for psychological interventions with college students; and (3) to provide a basis for the promulgation of national and governmental policies.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Role: ConceptualizationRole: Data curationRole: Formal analysisRole: MethodologyRole: Writing – original draftRole: Writing – review & editing
                Role: ConceptualizationRole: Data curationRole: MethodologyRole: Writing – review & editing
                Role: MethodologyRole: Writing – review & editing
                Role: MethodologyRole: Writing – review & editing
                Role: Editor
                Journal
                PLoS One
                PLoS ONE
                plos
                plosone
                PLoS ONE
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, CA USA )
                1932-6203
                30 September 2020
                2020
                30 September 2020
                : 15
                : 9
                Affiliations
                [1 ] Department of Public Health, College of Science and Health, William Paterson University, Wayne, NJ, United States of America
                [2 ] Department of Environmental Science, College of Science and Health, William Paterson University, Wayne, NJ, United States of America
                Ryerson University, CANADA
                Author notes

                Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

                Article
                PONE-D-20-12567
                10.1371/journal.pone.0239696
                7526896
                32997683
                b89c5476-5cc9-4d91-a66b-9a13a7737ba7
                © 2020 Kecojevic et al

                This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

                Page count
                Figures: 0, Tables: 4, Pages: 16
                Product
                Funding
                The author(s) received no specific funding for this work.
                Categories
                Research Article
                Medicine and Health Sciences
                Medical Conditions
                Infectious Diseases
                Viral Diseases
                Covid 19
                Medicine and Health Sciences
                Mental Health and Psychiatry
                Medicine and Health Sciences
                Epidemiology
                Pandemics
                Medicine and Health Sciences
                Mental Health and Psychiatry
                Psychological Stress
                Biology and Life Sciences
                Psychology
                Psychological Stress
                Social Sciences
                Psychology
                Psychological Stress
                Social Sciences
                Sociology
                Communications
                Social Communication
                Social Media
                Computer and Information Sciences
                Network Analysis
                Social Networks
                Social Media
                Social Sciences
                Sociology
                Social Networks
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                Medicine and Health Sciences
                Mental Health and Psychiatry
                Mood Disorders
                Depression
                People and Places
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                Educational Status
                Undergraduates
                Biology and Life Sciences
                Neuroscience
                Cognitive Science
                Cognitive Psychology
                Learning
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                Psychology
                Cognitive Psychology
                Learning
                Human Learning
                Social Sciences
                Psychology
                Cognitive Psychology
                Learning
                Human Learning
                Biology and Life Sciences
                Neuroscience
                Learning and Memory
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                All relevant data are within the manuscript and its Supporting Information files.
                COVID-19

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