- Award ID(s):
- NSF-PAR ID:
- Lin, Chung-Ying
- Date Published:
- Journal Name:
- PLOS ONE
- Page Range / eLocation ID:
- Medium: X
- Sponsoring Org:
- National Science Foundation
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The early phases of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States caused unprecedented disruption to engineering students and society-at-large. Residential students suddenly found themselves forced off-campus and into a new regime of online learning. On top of this, students faced pandemic related uncertainty about their health and the health of their loved ones, restrictions on social life, and the privations of a stuttering economy. It is perhaps unsurprising, then, that during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic the engineering student population saw large increases in incidences of depression and other psychological conditions. While COVID-19 continues to be a concern, many of the restrictions and precautions associated with the early outbreak have been relaxed. Most engineering programs are back to in person learning, and strict COVID-testing regimes, mask mandates, and limits on large public gatherings have been largely phased out. With academia and society slowly adjusting to this “new normal,” it is important to know whether and to what extent mental health of engineering students has changed over the course of the pandemic. This work explores this question by analyzing longitudinal data collected at four times from 2019-2021. We analyze how the prevalence of different conditions changed with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and whether they have returned to pre-pandemic levels. Among other results, we found statistically significant increases were observed in total depressive disorders between our initial sample (Fall 2019) and a sample taken immediately post-COVID (Spring 2020). While measured rates of depression decreased between Spring 2020 and Fall 2021, it was not statistically significant, potentially indicating that the student population is still recovering on this metric. Conversely our data shows a statistically significant drop in moderate-to-major psychological distress between our Fall 2019 pre-pandemic sampling and our Fall 2021 post-pandemic sampling indicating, potentially indicating an improvement in overall mental health. Breaking the data down by gender, no significant changes were observed across any measure during the four sample periods for women respondents. Men, however, showed a significant increase in depressive disorders from Fall 2019 to Spring 2020; and a significant decrease in depressive disorders from Spring 2020 to Fall 2021.more » « less
null (Ed.)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 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; stressmore » « less
In March of 2020, higher education institutions across the U.S. closed their doors and converted to remote and online learning due to the COVID-19 health crisis. As the country adjusted to the “new normal” of living and working at home, the economic and psychological impact of self-isolation and business closures were felt strongly by those who were most economically and socially vulnerable. In this context, the evaluation team of the Computing Alliance of Hispanic Serving Institutions (CAHSI) implemented a survey of students studying computer science at Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs) across the country to understand the impact of COVID-19 on their lives. In this paper, we identify the contexts in which students at HSIs continued (or failed to continue) their academic pursuits under great hardship. Our analysis highlights how the multidimensional framework of “servingness,” defined as a critical organizational, interactional, and ideological approach that many HSIs use to support their students, was experienced by students during the pandemic (Garcia et al., 2019). We argue that the practices and structures of servingness contributed to sustaining students’ well-being, dignity, and learning amid uncertainty.more » « less
The COVID-19 pandemic presented challenges that disproportionately impacted women. Household roles typically performed by women (such as resource acquisition and caretaking) became more difficult due to financial strain, fear of infection, and limited childcare options among other concerns. This research draws from an on-going study of hot flashes and brown adipose tissue to examine the health-related effects of the COVID-19 pandemic among 162 women aged 45–55 living in western Massachusetts.
We compared women who participated in the study pre- and early pandemic with women who participated mid-pandemic and later-pandemic (when vaccines became widely available). We collected self-reported symptom frequencies (e.g., aches/stiffness in joints, irritability), and assessments of stress, depression, and physical activity through questionnaires as well as measures of adiposity (BMI and percent body fat). Additionally, we asked open-ended questions about how the pandemic influenced women’s health and experience of menopause. Comparisons across pre-/early, mid-, and later pandemic categories were carried out using ANOVA and Chi-square analyses as appropriate. The Levene test for homogeneity of variances was examined prior to each ANOVA. Open-ended questions were analyzed for yes/no responses and general themes.
Contrary to our hypothesis that women would suffer negative health-related consequences during the COVID-19 pandemic, we found no significant differences in women’s health-related measures or physical activity across the pandemic. However, our analysis of open-ended responses revealed a bi-modal distribution of answers that sheds light on our unexpected findings. While some women reported higher levels of stress and anxiety and lower levels of physical activity, other women reported benefitting from the remote life that the pandemic imposed and described having more time to spend on physical activity or in quality time with their families.
In this cross-sectional comparison of women during the pre-/early, mid-, and later-pandemic, we found no significant differences across means in multiple health-related variables. However, open-ended questions revealed that while some women suffered health-related effects during the pandemic, others experienced conditions that improved their health and well-being. The differential results of this study highlight a need for more nuanced and intersectional research on risk, vulnerabilities, and coping among mid-life women.
This research full paper presents screening rates for mental health issues and life-stress events in engineering-focused community college students during the initial phases of the COVID-19 pandemic in the US. Specifically, it attempts to answer the following research questions: 1) What is the overall rate of various mental health conditions among engineering-focused community college students, 2) What effects has the pandemic had on baseline stress levels engineering-focused community college, and 3) What effects has the pandemic had on quality of life, such as sleep habits and financial security of engineering- focused community college students? Data for this paper was collected via survey from May–July 2020 and includes responses from 84 students at 24 community colleges. The survey itself was a compilation of several widely- used instruments for measuring overall mental health and stress levels in a population. These instruments include the Kessler-6 for psychological distress, the PHQ for anxiety, depression, and eating disorders, the PC-PTSD for PTSD-like symptoms, and the SRRS for inventorying stressful life events. Among the major findings, 32% of respondents reported a major change in financial situation, 27% reported loss of employment, and 13% reported ceasing formal schooling because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, 32% of respondents reported that the COVID-19 pandemic worsened their housing security situation, 38% reported that COVID-19 has worsened their food security situation, and 36% report that COVID-19 has decreased their ability to access instruction, course materials, or course supplies. Finally, of respondents who completed at least one mental health screening instrument, 70% screened positive for at least one potentially diagnosable condition, while only 9% reported ever receiving a mental health diagnosis. Index Terms—Community College, Mental Health, Disability, Accessibility, Equity, Inclusion, Wellnessmore » « less