MONDAY, Oct. 26, 2020 (HealthDay News) — Among university students confined during the COVID-19 pandemic, the prevalence of mental health issues was high, according to a study published online Oct. 23 in JAMA Network Open.

Marielle Wathelet, M.D., from Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Lille in France, and colleagues collected data from April 17 to May 4, 2020, from 69,054 students living in France during the COVID-19 quarantine. Students were asked to complete an online questionnaire to examine the prevalence of mental health symptoms.

The researchers found that 42.8 percent of students reported at least one outcome; of these students, 12.4 percent reported seeing a health professional. The prevalence rates of suicidal thoughts, severe distress, high level of perceived stress, severe depression, and high level of anxiety were 11.4, 22.4, 24.7, 16.1, and 27.5 percent, respectively. Reporting at least one mental health outcome was associated with female gender or nonbinary gender (odds ratios [ORs], 2.10 and 3.57, respectively), precariousness (ORs, 1.28 and 2.30 for loss of income and low-quality housing, respectively), history of psychiatric follow-up (OR, 3.28), symptoms compatible with COVID-19 (OR, 1.55), social isolation (ORs, 3.63 and 2.62 for weak sense of integration and low quality of social relations, respectively), and low quality of information received (OR, 1.56).

“Protecting the mental health of students is a public health issue that appears even more critical in the context of a pandemic,” the authors write.

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