Students returning to college campuses this fall may experience a transition similar to what astronauts go through when they return to Earth after a mission in outer space. The shift can be dramatic, even after a short trip. The longer the mission, the longer it takes to reacclimate.
“Like we’ve been on this really long flight into outer space, sometimes it feels like we’ve just been in another universe,” said Kim Hirabayashi, a professor of clinical education at the University of Southern California’s Rossier School of Education.
The long journey of the coronavirus pandemic took students through dimensions of online learning, social isolation, economic anguish, personal loss and mass grief. It resulted in psychological distress for many.
That distress can take the form of burnout, which appears to be increasing. At Ohio State, the number of students reporting feelings of burnout leapt 31 percentage points during the last academic year — from 40 percent of students in August 2020 to 71 percent in April, according to a university study. The report also found marked increases in anxiety, depression and unhealthy coping mechanisms such as substance use, lack of physical activity and social isolation over the eight-month period. Researchers plan to survey students again this fall.
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