COVID-19 Impacted College Students’ Mental Health Hardest, According to Nationwide Survey of Students

Washington, D.C. – According to a recent survey from Active Minds, the nation’s leading nonprofit organization promoting mental health awareness and education for young adults, a majority (80%) of college students say that COVID-19 has negatively impacted their mental health, with 20% reporting their mental health has significantly worsened during this time.   

Of the students who responded to the Active Minds’ Young Adult Mental Health Survey,  91% reported that COVID-19 has caused them stress or anxiety, 81% said that it brought disappointment or sadness, and 80% experienced loneliness or isolation during this time. Surprisingly, nearly half (48%) report that a major COVID-19 stressor is the financial setback it has caused – some reporting this from personal impact, and others related to family finances.

“COVID-19 and its related closures have impacted everyone’s life in one way or another, but college students, in particular, have experienced considerable disruption during an already vulnerable stage in their development,” said Laura Horne, Chief Program Officer of Active Minds. “Our research shows that college students are facing these challenges head-on while balancing new demands from school, work, and family – but there is more that universities and loved ones can do to support them.”

The importance of regular, clear, compassionate communication regarding mental health resources and academic options was highlighted throughout the survey. More than half of college students surveyed say that they would not know where to go if they or someone they knew needed professional mental health services right away. Students also reported uncertainty about academic options and what those options mean for their future as a primary stressor.  

The survey provided insight into what would be helpful and useful for universities and colleges to incorporate into their policies to help improve overall student mental health during and after the pandemic. The following themes emerged from the results:   

  • Increased academic support: Leniency, accommodations, and flexibility 
  • More mental health resources: Increased investment in counseling and coping resources 
  • Focus on soft skills: Empathy, compassion, communication, understanding, and validation for the burdens students are experiencing
  • More opportunities for social connection: Replace canceled events, services, and classes with virtual ones 
  • Engage in long-term planning: Colleges need to be prepared to help students heal and recover when they return and put in place improved practices and protocols to more easily pivot to remote learning in case of another similar crisis.

The findings in the survey also highlight the unique challenges that college students across the country face as they finish the semester from home. Students reported that one of the most difficult challenges they face during COVID-19 is staying focused on school and/or work despite distractions (85%). While students are finding it difficult to adjust to their new environments, many responded  that the best way that parents and guardians can support students right now is to just spend time with them.   

“Students recognize that they will need long-term mental health resources specific to the impact of COVID-19. Our hope is that this study provides insights into the mental health of students to give campus administrators, employers, parents, and students the tools necessary to help establish a supportive culture of mental health,”  said Horne.

The results mentioned in this release are part of a larger study, which surveyed students from high school to post-doctoral. Review the full report here.


About Active Minds: Active Minds is the nation’s leading nonprofit organization supporting mental health awareness and education for young adults. Active Minds has a presence on over 800 college, university, and high school campuses nationwide, and is powered by a robust Chapter Network, the nationally acclaimed Send Silence Packing® display, and inspiring Active Minds Speakers. The organization is dedicated to ending the silence and changing the conversation about mental health for everyone. To learn more, visit



Contact: Amanda Horn, Active Minds
Phone: (202) 332-9595 x103