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.
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.
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.