Pandemic lockdowns take a toll on college students’ mental health
College students appear to be highly vulnerable to the mental health effects of pandemic lockdowns, with this population having a higher prevalence of psychiatric disorders relative to nonstudents, according to data from the CONFINS study.
CONFINS was a web-based study that investigated the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the general lockdown in France in spring 2020 on the well-being and mental health of the population. The cross-sectional analysis included 2,260 individuals (78 percent women), among whom 1,335 were students (59 percent).
Compared with nonstudents, students were much younger (mean age, 23.3 vs 40.1 years), less likely to have a partner (48.1 percent vs 76.3 percent) and were slightly more frequently at risk of severe forms of COVID-19 (35.4 percent vs 24.0 percent).
All participants completed an online questionnaire, which queried the presence of suicidal thoughts, perceived stress (on a 10-point scale), and mental health disorders (validated mental health scales such as Patient Health Questionnaire-9 for depressive symptoms, Generalized Anxiety Disorder-7 for anxiety symptoms) during the previous 7 days.
Multivariate logistic regression analyses revealed student status to be associated with a higher likelihood of depressive symptoms (adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 1.58, 95 percent confidence interval [CI], 1.17–2.14), anxiety symptoms (aOR, 1.51, 95 percent CI, 1.10–2.07), perceived stress (n=1,919; aOR, 1.70, 95 percent CI, 1.26–2.29), and suicidal thoughts (n=1,919; aOR, 1.57, 95 percent CI, 0.97–2.53).
Furthermore, students were more vulnerable to lockdown conditions that could negatively affect mental health, such as isolation, compared with nonstudents.
The findings suggest the need for a close follow-up and monitoring of students’ mental health status, especially during lockdown periods.