High-level social support helps improve postgraduate students’ mental health during static management of the Covid-19 pandemic

A team of researchers undertook a study of the mental health of postgraduate students during the static management of the Covid-19 pandemic. They found that when students received high levels of social support, it reduced the 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 been studying not only the impact of the pandemic on people’s physical health, but also its impact on people’s mental health. Studies have already been conducted looking at the relationship between anxiety, depression and stress in children, students, the elderly and the general population. However, scientists have yet to conduct studies focusing on college students. Previous studies have shown that, in general, graduate students have poorer mental health compared to medical students and residents. So, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the research team sees postgraduate students as an at-risk group that deserves their study.

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

The researchers note that changes in daily life, such as changes in sleep, physical activity and diet, caused by static driving can lead to chronic stress. These factors contributed to a long-term poor quality of life for students. Chronic stress has been shown to be closely related to illnesses such as burnout and depression. “Life stress amid the COVID-19 pandemic would lead to obvious symptoms of anxiety and depression,” said Ti-Fei Yuan of Shanghai Jiao Tong Medical University.

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

The team also examined the impact of students’ social support on the relationship between life stress and depression. Their results show that life stress and social support can combine to predict the level of depression. A high level of social support may moderate the association between life stress and depression. They noted that students with higher levels of social support had milder symptoms of anxiety and depression. These findings reveal the protective function of social support on a person’s mental health.

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

These results may help us better understand the relationship between graduate students’ life stress, level of social support, level of anxiety, and level of depression during the epidemic.”

Yuanyuan Yin from the School of Psychiatry, Wenzhou Medical University

Looking ahead to future research, the team hopes to conduct interviews to gain a deeper insight into the students’ actual 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, Center for Shanghai Mental Health, Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine.


Tsinghua University Press

Journal reference:

Yin, Y., et al. (2022) High-level social support mitigates the negative effect of life stress on graduate students’ mental health during closed-door management of the COVID-19 pandemic Omicron. Stress and the brain. doi.org/10.26599/SAB.2022.9060022.

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