TimelyMD Survey Finds 4 of 5 College Students Still Stressed by COVID-19 After One Year

March 16, 2021
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(FORT WORTH, Texas)—One year into the COVID-19 pandemic, 82% of college students say they continue to experience increased stress and/or anxiety.

A new survey of more than 1,300 college students published today by TimelyMD, the leading telehealth company specializing in higher education, found that three out of four students (75%) said the impact on the quality of their education has worsened their mental health. Other significant concerns for students were not knowing what life may look like once a new normal is established (56%), isolation from friends and family (50%), missing a vibrant campus life (45%) and struggles with remote learning (40%).

There is good news, however. Nine out of 10 (91%) of students have found at least one coping mechanism that helps them feel better. Three of the top four methods involve connecting with friends and family: Zoom/FaceTime video chats (63%), phone calls (52%), watching TV or movies (40%) or spending time in-person with others in their risk bubble (38%).

While students may be experiencing “Zoom fatigue,” they have adapted to using technology in new ways—and expect the flexibility and immediacy of virtual access to continue in a post-COVID world. Half (51%) of students say they hope remote options for their classes remain even after the threat of the pandemic is over. They also hoped that the use of food delivery apps (39%), Zoom/FaceTime video chats with loved ones (39%) and virtual access to faculty (38%) all continue. Surprisingly, slightly more students said they want to continue with symptom tracker apps (22%) than virtual fitness classes (17%), which is one way campuses have tried to safely engage students and promote well-being.

Though a vibrant campus life will take some time to achieve, health experts are optimistic students’ mental health may improve as vaccines become widely available, public health restrictions are lifted and more institutions return to in-person instruction this fall. After all, health and well-being are integral to academic performance, student retention and resilience in life.

“It's telling that the survey suggests students are finding it overwhelmingly difficult to cope with an environment that remains in flux,” said Nirmal (Nim) Patel, MD, MPH, SVP of Care Transformation for TimelyMD. “This is an opportune time to lean in and support students as they once again learn to navigate what a new normal feels like in society and on campus. Colleges and universities that lean into heavily promoting their well-being efforts with a culture of caring will be best positioned to address the chasm we have in student mental health.”

Two-thirds of students (66%) surveyed have sought emotional support of some kind, and 63% of those have used telehealth or teletherapy for mental health support. Mental health visits have been in particularly high demand for students using TimelyMD (60% over the last year vs. 10% pre-pandemic) as COVID-19, and its resulting uncertainty and disruption remain.

TimelyMD helps colleges and universities eliminate barriers to getting students the help they need by offering 24/7 access to high-quality, team-based care in all 50 states at no cost to students. In addition to virtual medical care, TimelyMD offers a student-centric, stair-step approach to behavioral health and well-being—including holistic health coaching, on-demand emotional support (TalkNow), scheduled counseling, and psychiatry services. Available on more than 80 campuses around the country, TimelyMD’s telehealth and teletherapy services are a trusted, around-the-clock extension of the myriad resources colleges and universities offer to help students be well and thrive.

About the survey

TimelyMD conducted a nationwide survey of college students enrolled at two-and-four-year institutions regarding the impact of COVID-19 on mental health on March 4-5, 2021. The survey received 1,371 responses; 94% of students were between the ages of 18 and 24 years old.  

About TimelyMD

Focused on improving the health of student populations, TimelyMD offers universities and colleges a comprehensive, custom program centered around telehealth. TimelyMD’s campus-wide solution gives students one point of contact--anytime, anywhere--to get quality care and immediate treatment for medical or mental health concerns from board certified physicians and licensed counselors. TimelyMD’s telehealth programs optimize clinic resources and support clinic staff in delivering quality care to the right students at the right times. Visit timely.md for more information.