Publication date: November 30, 2022



Association Between College Course Delivery Model and Rates of Psychological Distress During the COVID-19 Pandemic.

DOI: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.44270





College students in the US have been heavily affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to increased rates of depression and anxiety, college students have faced unprecedented stressors, such as geographic relocation and abrupt conversion from in-person classes to online classes.



To study the association between course delivery model and psychological distress among US college students.


Design, Setting, and Participants

This cross-sectional analysis used national data from the American College Health Association–National College Health Assessment III data set. Data were gathered from a web-based survey administered from January to early June 2021 to full-time US college students attending 4-year programs.



Course delivery model was self-reported.


Main Outcomes and Measures

Psychological distress was measured using the Kessler Screening Scale for Psychological Distress.



This study evaluated 59 250 full-time undergraduate students (68.1% women; 51.5% White students; mean [SD] age, 21.2 [4.3] years); 3.5% attended fully in-person classes, 61.2% attended fully online classes, and 35.3% attended a mixed format of in-person and online classes. Students who attended classes fully online reported higher levels of psychological distress than those who attended a mix of online and in-person classes (b = 0.76 [99% CI, 0.64-0.88]; P < .001). This association remained significant after controlling for geographic region, year in school, gender, race and ethnicity, food security, current anxiety and/or depressive disorders, COVID-19 concerns, and residence (living on campus, off campus with family, or other off-campus arrangements) (b = 0.18 [99% CI, 0.04-0.31]; P = .001), as well as time spent socializing with friends (b = 0.13 [99% CI, 0.002-0.26]; P = .009).


Conclusions and Relevance

The findings of this study suggest that mental health professionals may wish to consider the association of course delivery models with mental health outcomes when working with college students. Colleges should be aware of the mental health burden associated with attending fully online classes and consider possible in-person components and supports for students.