The stress and anxiety that have plagued college students throughout the COVID-19 pandemic are starting to ease, according to a new report on mental health published by the Hi, How Are You Project and American Campus Communities.
More than 8,900 students responded to the College Student 2021 Mental Wellness Survey, administered by email in September. While 93 percent agreed that “mental health is an important component of their overall health and wellbeing” -- about the same as last year -- 62 percent said their levels of stress and anxiety were greater than in previous years, down from 85 percent who answered the same way last year. And 22 percent said they were experiencing somewhat or considerably less anxiety and stress than in previous years, with 16 percent citing no change.
Among respondents who said their levels were higher than in the past, the top source of anxiety and stress, named by 76 percent, was resuming a full course load or re-engaging in academics. COVID-19 worries -- fears of contracting the disease or uncertainty about their institution’s policies -- came in second, cited by 66 percent of respondents.
They didn’t view social media as detrimental to their mental health; while more than 90 percent of respondents said they used social media platforms multiple times a week, 68 percent said it had either no impact or a positive impact on their stress and anxiety levels.
Sixty-seven percent of the students surveyed -- about the same share as last year -- agreed that the COVID-19 pandemic has forced them to pay closer attention to their mental health. More than three-quarters said they were fine with “checking in on others about their mental wellbeing starting with asking, ‘Hi, How Are You?’” and 73 percent said they felt comfortable talking about mental health with their close friends.