The COVID-19 pandemic has not only posed a significant threat to physical health but has also cast a shadow over the mental well-being of individuals worldwide, particularly university students. A comprehensive literature review spanning 32 studies conducted during and post-pandemic sheds light on the profound effects of COVID-19 on the mental health of university students. The findings underscore a disturbing trend of heightened stress, anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders among this demographic, amplifying pre-existing vulnerabilities and exacerbating the challenges of navigating academic and social spheres amidst a global crisis.
Drawing from a diverse array of scientific literature databases, including Science Direct, Google Scholar, Web of Science, and PubMed, the review meticulously analyzed peer-reviewed articles published between January 2020 and December 2023. This rigorous methodology ensured the inclusion of a wide-ranging perspective on the mental health ramifications of the pandemic across different geographical regions, encompassing countries such as the United States, Denmark, UK, Turkey, and China, among others. Each sourced publication underwent a rigorous scientific peer-review process, ensuring the reliability and validity of the insights gleaned.
The findings of the literature review unveil a stark reality: university students are disproportionately vulnerable to mental health disorders, with the pandemic exacerbating pre-existing challenges and giving rise to novel stressors. Heightened levels of stress, anxiety, depression, and insomnia have emerged as prevalent manifestations of the psychological toll inflicted by the pandemic. Moreover, the review elucidates a disturbing uptick in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) symptoms and suicidal ideation among university students, underscoring the urgent need for targeted interventions and support mechanisms.
Gender disparities in mental health outcomes further compound the challenges faced by university students, with female students exhibiting a heightened susceptibility to mental health issues compared to their male counterparts. However, while male students may demonstrate better coping mechanisms, they are at an elevated risk of lethality in cases of suicidal ideation, highlighting the multifaceted nature of the mental health crisis. Furthermore, students with pre-existing mental health conditions and comorbidities are disproportionately affected, experiencing exacerbated symptoms and poorer outcomes amidst the pandemic-induced upheaval.
The review also illuminates the intricate interplay between fear, stress, and declining mental health, as well as the deleterious impact of online learning on student well-being. Physical activity emerges as a potent protective factor against depressive symptoms, underscoring the importance of holistic approaches to mental health management. These findings resonate across diverse cultural and geographical contexts, underscoring the universal nature of the mental health crisis facing university students worldwide.
In conclusion, the literature review serves as a clarion call for concerted action to address the mental health needs of university students amidst the ongoing pandemic. Urgent interventions are warranted to mitigate the detrimental effects of COVID-19 on student well-being, foster resilience, and cultivate supportive environments conducive to mental health flourishing. As the global community grapples with the enduring reverberations of the pandemic, prioritizing mental health must remain paramount in safeguarding the future generations’ well-being and resilience.