The Pandemic is Increasing College Students’ Anxiety and Depression

For decades, researchers have studied the effects that going to college can have on young people’s mental health. Every year, thousands of students report an increase in depression and anxiety as they cope with the stress of going away to school for the first time. In some ways, this statistic isn’t surprising. For many people, going away to college means living on their own for the first time–and dealing with all the stress and responsibilities that come with it.

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused rates of student depression and suicidal thoughts to skyrocket. In a U.K. study, nearly 60% of students admitted that their mental health had worsened since the start of the pandemic. Colleges throughout the world have seen an alarming increase in depression, anxiety and suicide attempts among their students. While many colleges have taken steps to combat this epidemic, studies suggest that these rates won’t decrease until after the pandemic is over.

How Has the Pandemic Affected College Students’ Mental Health?

While every case is different, there are a few common factors that might be affecting college students’ mental health. Here’s a few reasons why the rate of depression in college students might be increasing:

  • In the wake of school lockdowns, many students feel isolated as they work from home instead of going to class.
  • Canceling concerts, sports games and other campus events has taken away potential distractions from the pandemic.
  • Students have to stay indoors more often, making it hard to relieve stress by going outside and getting some exercise.
  • The pandemic has denied students the chance to hang out with their friends, visit the local bars, check out the nightlife and get the full college experience.
  • Many students have struggled with online classes and found it challenging to get the help that they need.
  • Some students have decided to drop out altogether, putting their futures on hold indefinitely.

How Are Colleges Trying to Combat the Epidemic?

When the pandemic started back in March 2020, thousands of colleges shut down in-person classes to prevent the spread of the virus. Instead of learning in the classroom, students had to learn through Zoom lectures and online modules. This allowed many schools to slow the spread of the virus, but it also required students to stay indoors for hours each day instead of getting the chance to go outside, stretch their legs and hang out with their fellow students.

Over the past several months, suicide rates have increased so dramatically that some colleges are considering re-opening their doors for in-person learning. They hope that getting students back in the classroom might ease their depression and anxiety and reduce their suicidal thoughts. Unfortunately, this could also encourage the spread of the virus throughout college campuses. This leaves colleges with a tough decision to make: do they stay closed and watch their students’ mental health continue to decline or open their doors and possibly risk the health of their students, teachers and staff?

Should College Campuses Shut Down in the First Place?

Some have argued that college campuses didn’t need to go on lockdown in the first place. Colleges tend to be an insular world where students can stay for days or even weeks at a time. If the students stay on campus, some believe that the risk of a superspreader event at a college campus is fairly low. On the other hand, a student could easily catch the virus and spread it to multiple people in their class, causing the virus to tear through the campus. Either way, it’s clear that colleges across the United States have a lot to consider until the pandemic is over.