College students' mental health worst-hit by COVID lockdown: Study
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New Delhi: A mental health study done on over 8,000 individuals found that college students were the most affected by the novel coronavirus pandemic and the lockdown. Conducted by YourDost, an online mental health platform, the study found that the second worst-affected segment of people was working professionals. They were not affected at the beginning of lockdown, but were severely hit with a drastic deterioration in feelings of anxiety, anger and loneliness.

The study compiled and analysed data from a survey done at the beginning of the coronavirus lockdown and another in June at the beginning of 'Unlock 1.0'. It also included data from individual sessions with experts on the YourDost platform.

Students recorded a six-per-cent increase in the emotions of anger and irritability at the beginning of the restrictions and a 13-per-cent increase in the emotions of loneliness and boredom. according to the study. As the lockdown progressed, students continued to be the worst-hit emotionally, reporting the highest net deterioration in their emotions, particularly in terms of their anger, anxiety, loneliness, hopelessness, and happiness.
The study showed a significant deterioration in emotions through several categories. "Students registered 41 per cent increase in emotions of anxiety/fear/worry, 54 per cent increase in anger/irritability/frustration, 27 per cent in hopelessness, sense of sadness was increased by 17 per cent, and 38 per cent increase in the feeling of loneliness/boredom," it noted.

At the beginning of the coronavirus restrictions, the student respondents of the study registered a one per cent increase in their sense of happiness. However, the feeling of joy went down by 15 per cent as the lockdown progressed. The report also found that the change in the mental stage of students was also affected by facing difficulties in adjusting to life at home.
"They miss college, they miss their peers and they miss the string of activities that keep happening on campus. Most of all, they report difficulty in reconnecting with their parents which has caused them to feel severely frustrated. They also report a 'loss of freedom' with their parents around," it read.

While the reason for students' falling emotional state was mostly being confined to homes, working professionals were troubled by the uncertainty and a feeling of "what's next?" "Working professionals registered 41 per cent increase in emotions of anxiety/fear/worry, 34 per cent increase in anger/irritability/frustration, 17 per cent in hopelessness, the feeling of sadness was increased by 18 per cent and the sense of loneliness/boredom increased by 26 per cent," the report noted.

Many reported feeling anxious, frustrated and bored from being stuck at home and the consequent lack of social interactions. These feelings are further exacerbated by the sudden change in lifestyle that many working professionals are still struggling to come to terms with, according to the study. "The uncertainty and a feeling of 'What's next?' seems to be particularly dominant and distressing for many working professionals," it said.

The study also found that at the beginning of the lockdown, a total of 33 per cent respondents were highly stressed and 51 per cent said they were moderately stressed. However, the stress levels of Indians rose significantly over the course of the next two months.

Over a period from 'Lockdown 1.0' on March 25 to 'Unlock 1.0' on June 7, 55 per cent of the respondents reported an increase in their stress levels, the study said. Sleep quality continued to deteriorate for most, with a net change up to 11 per cent. Indians experienced a drastic increase in emotional outbursts with a net change of up to 22 per cent, the report said.

However, it was not all negative as the lockdown extended. "Respondents reported an improvement in their diet with a net change of up to 12 per cent and family life with a net change of up to 21 per cent."

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Free Press Journal