Study Says COVID-19 Pandemic Revealed Divide in Mental Health Among College Students

According to researchers at Dartmouth College, the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed that young people most concerned about the virus had a likelihood of struggling with depression, self-anxiety and low self-esteem.

‘The pandemic has put students on a literal mental health rollercoaster, mostly heading downward,’ said Andrew Campbell, Professor of Computer Science.

Utilizing data from smartphones, Campbell and his team were able to track the mental projections and depressions students have experienced since the inception of the virus.

Campbell began the study of students’ habits in 2017, using 200 Dartmouth student volunteers. Campbell introduced the volunteers to StudentLife— an app he co-developed — which works in the background collecting data and giving weekly assessments. In this way, students can provide updates about their moods and stress levels.

‘Before there was any sign of the pandemic, I was really interested in the rising rates of depression of the general student population,’ said Campbell.

When the pandemic began, the researchers discovered that students were feeling more depressed and anxious judging by the amount of time they spent on their phones and slept. They also revealed that students who had more concerns about the pandemic had higher levels of stress.

Making use of this data, the researchers used machine learning to determine if the students should be in a high-concern or low-concern group. In this way, the massive potential artificial intelligence and smartphone technology has to detect mental health issues was demonstrated, according to Subigya Nepal, PhD candidate and first author of the study. He however cautioned on basing the research on only a small group of students in an English school.

‘We don’t know how generalizing it is,’ said Nepal.

Although the researchers did not examine demographical data to determine why some students were more concerned about the virus than others, the study revealed information on the pandemic’s effect on students.

Campbell has high hopes of making the dataset public so the academic community can ‘mine different behaviors we haven’t looked into.’

By Marvellous Iwendi.

Source: The Washington Post