Analyzing Psychological Distress and Mental Well-Being in Canadian Post-Secondary Students Throughout COVID-19

Student Capstone Project

The COVID-19 pandemic impacted everyone across the globe in one way or another. The Canadian Campus of Wellbeing Survey (CCWS), a Canadian assessment tool, based out of the University of British Columbia, that helps colleges and universities collect the data they need to support student health and well-being, wanted to explore the effects of the pandemic on Canadian post-secondary students. 

The CCWS had a particular interest in exploring the impact of the pandemic on more vulnerable learner groups (e.g., learners with disabilities, and racialized learners) and teamed up with a group of UBC Master of Data Science Vancouver students to answer the following three questions:

  1. How has student mental well-being and psychological stress changed throughout the COVID-19 pandemic? 
  2. Are there demographic subgroups that are particularly vulnerable to poor mental well-being and psychological stress?
  3. How does intersectionality play a role in mental well-being and psychological stress of students?

The CCWS tasked the students with performing statistical analysis on the survey data and creating visualizations to improve the communication of results at future stakeholder meetings.

The survey data that the students had to work with contained 96 variables and 88,665 records, and this data set was applied to 74 universities and colleges. The CCWS was completed by approximately 23,000 students in the spring of 2020 (pre-COVID), and then by approximately 21,000 students in the spring of 2021.  

After data wrangling and cleaning, then developing a Shiny app and white paper, the group revealed their findings. 

Their results supported that equity deserving groups generally experienced more psychological distress and poorer mental well-being, and that this disparity was present throughout the pandemic. Intersectionality was related to both health outcomes.

Using the results, the CCWS plans to promote discussion among stakeholders, such as participating post-secondary institutions, about how to support and improve the mental well-being of post-secondary students.

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