Survey: Majority of college students still experience increased stress and anxiety due to COVID-19

According to a new survey by TimelyMD, a telehealth company that specializes in higher education, an overwhelming majority (85%) of college students say they continue to experience increased stress and/or anxiety as a result of COVID-19, with women reporting higher rates of coronavirus-related stress than men (93% vs. 78%).

The top three causes of stress and anxiety of students who responded to TimelyMD's survey related to academics: 72% feel uncertainty about the future of their education, 61% fear falling behind in their coursework, and 60% have experienced struggles with remote learning.

Worries about future career and job prospects (50%) and fears about their health and/or the health of loved ones (49%) rounded out students' five most common concerns.

Students' mental health concerns do not take the summer off. The hazy outlook for a safe return to campus only adds to the emotional toll of students' sustained feelings of fear, uncertainty, and isolation relating to the coronavirus."

Dr. Alan Dennington, Chief Medical Officer, TimelyMD

"We have a responsibility to make sure students do not suffer alone no matter where they are, especially when three out of four are open to using telehealth for mental health counseling."

The need for expanded mental health resources for college students is particularly urgent as plans to reopen many campuses this fall remain uncertain and dozens of athletes have tested positive for coronavirus since voluntary practices began.

Despite the increase in stress and anxiety, only 21% of students surveyed reported seeking emotional support by talking in person or via telehealth to a licensed counselor or behavioral health professional.

The survey also provided insight into students' coping mechanisms, concerns by geography, and attitudes toward telehealth as a resource.

  • Coping mechanisms – More than anything, students are turning to TV, movies, and streaming services (65%) as a way to cope during the pandemic. This was especially true for women (72% vs. 58% of men). Other common coping mechanisms included video calls (59%), phone calls (58%), physical exercise (50%), and spending time outdoors (47%). Only 24% disconnected from social media and news.
  • Regional differences – 84% of respondents in the Northeast said uncertainty about the future of their education was their top concern – 9% higher than the next closest region (the West). In the Southwest, 54% of students worried about how to pay for college due to financial hardship – 13% more than students than the next closest region (the West)
  • Despite satisfaction, telehealth is underutilized – While only 35% of students surveyed have used telehealth for medical or mental health, 65% have been "satisfied" or "very satisfied" with their experience, which suggests there may be an awareness gap of this virtual resource offered by many colleges and universities.

Telehealth services can be an important way for students to connect to care anytime, anywhere. Since mid-March, two-thirds of the college students who have used TimelyMD's Campus.

Health programs have utilized mental health counseling, with 15 percent having experienced suicidal ideation. Learn more about the medical, mental health, psychiatry, and health coaching programs TimelyMD offers to support college students' physical and mental health.

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