Researchers study the mental health of postgraduate students during the static managements of the Covid-19 pandemic

Newswise — A team of researchers has undertaken a study of the mental health of postgraduate students during the static management of the Covid-19 pandemic. They determined that when students received high-level social support, it reduced stress, anxiety, and depression caused by static management.

The results of their research are published in the journal Stress and the brain on November 22, 2022.

Since the arrival of Covid-19 in December 2019, researchers have studied not only the impact of the pandemic on people’s physical health, but also its impacts on people’s mental health. Studies have already been conducted on the relationship between anxiety, depression, and stress in children, undergraduate students, the elderly, and the general population. However, scientists had not yet conducted studies focused on graduate students. Previous studies have shown that, in general, graduate students have poorer mental health than medical students and residents. Thus, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the research team considered postgraduate students to be an at-risk group that merited their study.

With the arrival of the first omicron variant strain in Shanghai in May 2022, many of the city’s universities moved into static management, or closed campus management, for several months. The team focused their study on postgraduate students from these universities impacted by static managements. Previous research has shown that due to static managements, most people have moderate to high levels of stress. The team conducted an online survey to assess the level of social support, stress, anxiety and depression that postgraduate students at several universities in Shanghai experienced during the static pandemic management period. The 110 students in the study completed a series of online questionnaires related to current life stress and social support, a generalized anxiety disorder survey, and a comprehensive student health survey.

The researchers noted that changes in daily routines, such as variations in sleep, physical activity, and diet, caused by static management, can lead to chronic stress. These factors have contributed to a lasting poor quality of life for the students. Chronic stress has been shown to be closely linked to illnesses such as burnout and depression. “The stress of living amid the COVID-19 pandemic would lead to obvious symptoms of anxiety and depression,” said Ti-Fei Yuan, from Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine.

The team’s results showed that the interaction between life stress and social support had a strong predictive effect on anxiety levels. A high level of social support can lessen the impact of life stress on anxiety levels.

The team also investigated the influence of students’ social support on the link between life stress and depression. Their results showed that life stress and social support can be combined to predict the level of depression. A high level of social support can weaken the link between life stress and depression. They noted that students with a higher level of social support had milder symptoms of anxiety and depression. These results reveal the protective function of social support on a person’s mental health.

From a practical perspective, the team recognizes that graduating students would benefit from increased social support. Universities could provide services that improve social support for graduate students. “Universities should encourage more social activities to allow for more available social support, which would help mitigate the risk of anxiety and depression during the static campus management period,” Yuan said.

“These findings may help us better understand the relationship between graduate student life stress, social support level, anxiety level, and depression level during the outbreak,” Yuan said. Looking ahead to future research, the team hopes to conduct interviews to better understand the students’ real-life situation, as well as their feelings and thoughts.

The research team includes Yuanyuan Yin from Wenzhou Medical University School of Psychiatry, and Xinyu Cheng, Ziqi Liu and Ti-Fei Yuan from Shanghai Key Laboratory of Psychotic Disorders, Shanghai Mental Health Center, Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine and Jianyin Qiu, Shanghai Mental Health Center, Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine.

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About Stress and the brain

The brain is the central organ that copes with internal and external stress, and stress persistently affects brain function and health. Stress and the brain (Published by Tsinghua University Press) is an interdisciplinary journal publishing investigations related to intercommunications between stress and the nervous system that are of general interest to the brain research community. Its scope is wide and includes reviewed articles and research papers dealing with basic, translational and clinical research on all aspects of the neurobiology of stress, with particular emphasis on the impact of stress on the brain at levels ranging from genetics, molecular biology to brain imaging and behavior.

About SciOpen

SciOpen is an open-access professional resource for discovering scientific and technical content published by Tsinghua University Press and its publishing partners, providing the scholarly publishing community with innovative technology and cutting-edge capabilities. SciOpen provides end-to-end services across manuscript submission, peer review, content hosting, identity analysis and management, and expert guidance to ensure the development of each journal in offering a range of options in all functions such as Journal Layout, Production Services, Editorial Services, Marketing and Promotions, Online Functionality, etc. By digitizing the publishing process, SciOpen broadens reach, deepens impact, and accelerates the exchange of ideas.

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