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The impacts of coping style and perceived social support on the mental health of undergraduate students during the early phases of the COVID-19 pandemic in China: a multicenter survey

This article was originally published here

BMC Psychiatry. 2021 Oct 27;21(1):530. doi: 10.1186/s12888-021-03546-y.


BACKGROUND: An increasing number of undergraduate students in China have been reported to have psychological problems. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, a series of preventive and control measures were implemented, which undoubtedly worsened their psychological health. Coping style and social support were probably important factors that affected the psychological well-being of undergraduate students during the pandemic. This study aimed to explore the effects of coping style and perceived social support on the psychological well-being of college students and relevant risk factors.

METHODS: This cross-sectional study was performed in February and March of 2020 by distributing an online questionnaire among undergraduate students from seven geographical regions across China. The questionnaire included sociodemographic information; the 21-item Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale (DASS-21); the Perceived Social Support Scale (PSSS); and the Simplified Coping Style Questionnaire (SCSQ). For the analyses, t-tests, one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA), the Kruskal-Wallis test and multiple linear regression were utilized. The level of significance was set at P < 0.05.

RESULTS: Among 3113 college students, the rates of anxiety, depression and stress symptoms were 13.3, 15.4 and 6.8%, respectively. Increased rates of current smoking and drinking (5.5 and 25.2%, respectively) among undergraduates were identified. The results indicated that the PSSS subscales and SCSQ subscales were significantly associated with DASS-21 scores (P < 0.001). Multiple linear regression analysis showed that active coping style and family support were protective factors while passive coping style could aggravate psychological problems among participants (P < 0.001).

CONCLUSIONS: A remarkable number of college students adopted passive coping strategies to cope with negative feelings, such as smoking and drinking, which were detrimental to their mental health. In contrast, active coping strategies helped improve their psychological well-being. Moreover, family support was particularly important for maintaining their mental health and ameliorating mental health challenges in this major health crisis. Consequently, suitable psychointervention, routine screening for risk behaviors, and provision of further social support are needed for undergraduate students in the COVID-19 pandemic or other emergency public health events.

PMID:34706690 | DOI:10.1186/s12888-021-03546-y