REPORT: Universities compounded the student mental health crisis during the pandemic

A new report from Boston University researchers found that nearly 60% of college students qualify for at least one mental illness.

University responses to the pandemic took a toll on student mental health.

In study from Boston University (BU), researchers found that mental health is worsening among college students in the United States. 

A majority of college students have at least one mental health problem including depression and anxiety, according to the findings.

“College is a key developmental time; the age of onset for lifetime mental health problems also directly coincides with traditional college years—75 percent of lifetime mental health problems will onset by age 24,” Sarah K. Lipson, BU School of Public Health assistant professor and co-author of the study, told BU research newspaper The Brink.

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Lipson is one of nine researchers that conducted the study. The researchers evaluated data from over 350,000 students from 373 college campuses who participated in the Healthy Minds Study between 2013 and 2021. 

The results found that over 60% of the respondents met the qualifying criteria for “one or more mental health problems, a nearly 50% increase from 2013.”

The study’s “[f]indings have important implications for campus mental health programming” and pinpoint an alarming problem for the student population. The researchers called for “best practices’’ to be used in “clinical settings and…system-level change” to “reduce mental health inequalities.”

Declining mental health among students has been compounded since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

A 2020 study of students at Texas A&M University, for example, found that 48.1% of students “showed...moderate-to-severe level[s] of depression,” and “[a] majority of participants...indicated that their stress/anxiety levels had increased during the pandemic.”

[RELATED: OSU survey: More students are burned out, unhealthier]

Campus Reform spoke with students in the nation’s capitol in January of this year to gauge how they were coping with the effects of the pandemic. Several suggested lockdowns were contributing to depression and isolation.

Lockdown policies and heavy social restrictions also impacted students’ grades, a Missouri University of Science and Technology study found. According to its research, remote learning correlated with a decline in both students’ grades and mental health.

In 2021, a study by Pennsylvania State University reported that 72% of respondents said the pandemic had affected their mental health. 66% claimed the pandemic negatively impacted their academic performance.

As such, the U.S. Department of Education ordered colleges and universities to shift their unspent COVID-19 relief funding to increase mental health resources on campus. 

U.S Secretary of Education stated in a press release that colleges must provide resources for campus members to “heal from the grief, trauma, and anxiety they endured amid the pandemic.”

Campus Reform contacted Lipson and BU for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.

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