COVID survey shows anxiety and optimism on campus

Two-thirds of young people reported increasing support for the mental health of others
By: | October 14, 2020
Nearly 80% of college students say they have felt lonely or isolated while 48% have experienced financial setbacks, according to a survey by Active Minds. (GettyImages/franckreporter)Nearly 80% of college students say they have felt lonely or isolated while 48% have experienced financial setbacks, according to a survey by Active Minds. (GettyImages/franckreporter)

While nearly nine in 10 college students are experiencing anxiety during COVID, almost as many young people report feeling optimistic about the future, according to a survey.

Nearly 80% of college students say they have felt lonely or isolated while 48% have experienced financial setbacks, according to a survey by Active Minds, a nonprofit that promotes mental health awareness.

When including high school students, one-in-four young people reported that their depression significantly increased, the survey found.

“An uncertain fall semester has continued to impact students’ mental health across all demographics,” said Laura Horne, chief program officer of Active Minds. “Students are dealing with major uncertainty, grief, and disruptions to their routines and lifestyles and it is deeply affecting their mental health.”


More from UB: Here are 4 factors causing the most anxiety in college students


The survey also showed that young people are relying on each other.

Two-thirds of college and high school students reported increasing support for the mental health of others, and 78% “feel optimistic or hopeful about their school-related goals and future job prospects,” the survey found.

In higher ed, nearly two-thirds of students had expected take courses in an online/in-person hybrid but only 43% were taking courses that way. More than half reported taking all classes online.

Among the report’s other findings for undergraduates, graduates and high schools students:

  • 56% said their daily level of physical activity has decreased.
  • 68% have benefitted from virtual interactions with friends via calls, texting, social media or emails.
  • 71% said they know where to seek professional mental health services if they need immediate help
  • 70% said they know where to advise a friend to go if they need professional mental health services
  • 54% have coped by spending time with pets
  • 40% have received increased familial support
  • 27% have also relied on virtual mental health support, such as virtual counseling, virtual support groups, and texting support.

“Social media and texting have a bad reputation, but when used well these types of virtual connection points between students are vital to supporting their overall mental health—especially during times of social distancing,” said Amy Gatto, senior campus program manager for Active Minds.


UB’s coronavirus page offers complete coverage of the impacts on higher ed.