Researchers study the mental health of postgraduate students during the static management of the COVID-19 pandemic

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The study focused on the relationship between available social support and mental health of postgraduate students during the static management of the COVID-19 pandemic. Credit: stress and brain (2022). DOI: 10.26599/sab.2022.9060022

A team of researchers studied the mental health of postgraduate students during static management of the COVID-19 pandemic. They determined that when students received high-level social support, it reduced the stress, anxiety, and depression caused by stable management.

Their research findings are published in the journal stress and brain,

Since the advent of COVID-19 in December 2019, researchers have studied not only the impact of the pandemic on people’s physical health, but also its impact on people’s mental health. Studies have already been conducted focusing on the relationship between anxiety, depression, and stress in children, graduate students, the elderly, and the general population.

However, the scientists had not yet conducted a study focused on graduate students. Previous studies have shown that, in general, graduate students have worse mental health than medical students and residents. So because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the research team looked at postgraduate students as an at-risk group who were worthy of their study.

With the arrival of the first Omicron variant strain in Shanghai in May 2022, several universities in the city moved to static management, or campus attached management, for several months. The team focused their study on postgraduate students at these universities most affected by static management.

Previous research has shown that due to static management, most people had moderate to high levels of stress. The team conducted an online survey to assess the levels of social support, stress, anxiety and depression that postgraduate students at several Shanghai universities experienced during the epidemic stable management period. In the study, 110 students completed a series of online questionnaires related to current life stress and social support, a generalized anxiety disorder survey, and an overall student health survey.

The researchers said that changes in daily routines, such as changes in sleep, physical activity and diet, brought about by static management can lead to chronic stress. These factors contributed to a long-term poor quality of life for the students. Chronic stress has been proven to be closely related to illnesses such as burnout and depression. “Life stress in the background of the COVID-19 pandemic will lead to obvious symptoms of anxiety and depression,” said T-Fei Yuan of Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine.

The team’s results suggest that the interaction between life stress and social support has a strong predictive effect on anxiety levels. High levels of social support can reduce the effects of life’s stress on anxiety levels.

The team also examined the effect of students’ social support on the association between life stress and depression. Their results showed that life stress and social support may be linked to predicting depression level. Higher levels of social support may weaken the association between life stress and depression. They noted that students with higher levels of social support had milder symptoms of anxiety and depression. These findings reveal a protective function of social support on an individual’s mental health.

From a practical perspective, the team acknowledges that graduate students would benefit from enhanced social support. Universities can provide services that improve social support for graduate students. “Universities should encourage more social activities to enable more available social support, which will help reduce the risk of anxiety and depression during the campus stable management period,” Yuan said.

“These results may help us better understand the relationship between undergraduate students’ life stress, social support level, anxiety level and depression level during the pandemic,” Yuan said. Looking to future research, the team hopes to conduct interviews to gain deeper insight into the students’ real life situation, as well as their feelings and thoughts.

more information:
Yuanyuan Yin et al, High-Level Social Support Reduces the Negative Effects of Life Stress on Postgraduate Students’ Mental Health During Management of the COVID-19 Omicron Pandemic on Campus Lockdown, stress and brain (2022). DOI: 10.26599/sab.2022.9060022

Provided by Tsinghua University Press

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