Predictors of Depression among College Students in the Early Stages of the COVID-19 Pandemic

  •  Jennifer R. Pharr    
  •  Courtney Coughenour    
  •  Maxim Gakh    
  •  Timothy Bungum    
  •  Sharon Jalene    
  •  Mary Whitehead    
  •  Manoj Sharma    


College students are disproportionately impacted by depression compared to the general population. The purpose of this study was to determine the predictors of depression among college students during the COVID-19 pandemic to inform interventions. This cross-sectional study surveyed students at a large, diverse university in the southwest United States. Students provided information regarding the severity of their depression symptoms over the past two weeks (dependent variable) along with independent demographic and educational variables (age, sex, sexual orientation, grade point average, number of credits taken, first-generation college student status, race/ethnicity, and employment status), perceived stress, hours of sleep, physical fitness, and minutes of physical activity. Univariate and multivariate linear regression analyses were conducted. Variables that were significantly associated with depression in the multiple linear regression included stress, identifying as Asian, hours of sleep, and age. There is a need for stress management and mental health promotion interventions targeting college students. Additional interventionals should also focus on those more at risk, including those who identified as Asian (almost three times more likely to report depression compared with White students) and younger college students. We also found a need to promote sleep hygiene.

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