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Title: Effects of COVID-19 on Engineering Students’ Baseline Stress
CONTEXT With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the resulting response from universities, engineering students find themselves in an unprecedented situation. In addition to stressors related to the curriculum, residential students across the United States are being asked to relocate away from campus and engage in distance learning. At the same time, social distancing requirements are limiting students’ ability to socialize, procure food and supplies, exercise, and remain employed and financially solvent. Some students will fall ill while others face the prospect of sick family members, and even deaths in the family. Prior research suggests that individuals living through this pandemic are likely to face stress, uncertainty, and fear that affects their mental health and academic performance for years to come. PURPOSE OR GOAL The purpose of this study was to understand the ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting engineering students’ mental wellness, specifically stress, and how the effects differ for different groups of students. The research questions addressed are: 1) What effects has the pandemic had on baseline stress levels, and how do those vary by demographic group? 2) What effects has the pandemic had on quality of life, such as sleep habits and financial security, and how more » do those vary by demographic group? METHODS An online survey was conducted in the United States in May and June of 2020. More than 800 4-year engineering students who represented many engineering disciplines and universities responded. The survey used a modified version of the Holmes-Rahe Social Readjustment Rating Scale, which is a widely used and validated instrument to measure the effects of certain life events on stress. The data was analysed to determine the average increase in stress levels for students resulting from COVID-19, and which demographic groups have seen the most negative impact. We also report on which stress-inducing life-events were experienced most. OUTCOMES Latinx individuals and international students report statistically significantly higher levels of stress than the baseline population. Engineering students from other historically excluded identities, however,are not facing statistically significantly worse stress than their peers from historically over represented identities. Veterans fare better than the majority population on this metric.The data also indicates that different groups are more likely to experience different negative life-events because of COVID. CONCLUSIONS No previous research has examined the impacts of a global pandemic on engineering student stress and mental wellness. Our findings show that stress and mental wellness need to be understood intersectionally and that some underrepresented groups are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Understanding the impacts on students can help universities strategize and allocate limited resources most effectively to support student success. KEYWORDS Mental wellness; COVID-19; stress « less
Authors:
;
Award ID(s):
2029206
Publication Date:
NSF-PAR ID:
10221374
Journal Name:
Proceedings of the AAEE2020 Conference
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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