The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Mental Health of First-Year Undergraduate Students Studying at a Major Canadian University: A Successive Cohort Study.
King N., Pickett W., Rivera D., Byun J., Li M., Cunningham S., Duffy A.
OBJECTIVE: To examine the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on first year undergraduate student mental health. METHODS: As part of the Queen's University U-Flourish Student Well-Being and Academic Success study, three successive cohorts of students entering undergraduate studies in 2018 (pre-pandemic), 2019 (transitional), and 2020 (during pandemic) completed electronic surveys at entry and completion of first year. Validated self-report measures were used to assess mental health status including symptom levels of anxiety, depression, and insomnia, self-harm and frequency of substance use. Propensity matching and multivariable log-binomial regression were used in comparisons of mental health indicators across the cohorts. RESULTS: Clinically significant symptoms of depression, anxiety, insomnia, and self-harm were reported more frequently in the 2020-2021 cohort, coincident with remote learning and pandemic restrictions. In female students, screen positive rates for anxiety and depression, and suicidal ideation increased from about one-third to just under one-half in association with the pandemic (χ2, p