Mental health of US undergraduate and graduate students before and during the COVID-19 pandemic: Differences across sociodemographic groups

Yuchen Liu, Patricia A. Frazier, Carolyn M. Porta, Katherine A Lust

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The purposes of this study were to assess differences between sociodemographic groups in student mental health before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, to investigate whether the pandemic disproportionately affected certain groups, and to examine between-group differences in pandemic-related stressors. Data from Minnesota undergraduate and graduate students who completed an online survey in 2020 (N = 2,067) were compared to data collected from students in 2018 (N = 3,627). The survey assessed days of poor mental health, stress, stress management ability, days of adequate sleep, and pandemic-related stressors (2020 only). Multivariate analyses of variance assessed differences between study years (2020 vs. 2018), sociodemographic groups (gender, sexual orientation, race, disability, international student), and their interactions with study year in predicting mental health, and the sociodemographic groups in predicting pandemic stressors, among undergraduate and graduate students. Stress management ability decreased and sleep improved from 2018 to 2020. The sociodemographic variables most associated with poorer mental health were identifying as female, a sexual minority, or having a disability. Undergraduates reported poorer mental health than graduate students. Differences between sociodemographic groups were not larger during the pandemic, except among students with disabilities. All five sociodemographic variables were related to greater pandemic stressors in some domains.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number114428
JournalPsychiatry Research
StatePublished - Mar 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We acknowledge the assistance of Henry Wyneken and Allie Cooperman with statistical assistance. Informed consent was obtained for research with human subjects. The research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Elsevier B.V.


  • Gender differences
  • Mental health
  • People with disabilities
  • Race
  • college student health
  • sexual minorities
  • sleep
  • stress

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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