Abstract: Sources of Stress during the COVID-19 Pandemic Among Social Work Students (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

256P Sources of Stress during the COVID-19 Pandemic Among Social Work Students

Friday, January 14, 2022
Marquis BR Salon 6, ML 2 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Susanna Curry, PhD, Assistant Professor, California State University, Sacramento
Kisun Nam, PhD, Associate Professor, California State University, Sacramento
Ethan Evans, PhD, MSW, Assistant Professor, California State University, Sacramento, CA
Nassrine Noureddine, EdD, Associate Professor of Nursing, California State University, Sacramento
Background and Purpose: Stress among university students has been increasing in recent decades (Burwell, 2018), and students in programs such as Social Work may experience more stress than in traditional programs (Dziegliewski et al., 2004). Further, college students have experienced increased stress during the COVID-19 pandemic (Wang et al., 2020). Factors that have been reported to be stressful among college students in the U.S. during the pandemic include the transition to online classes, uncertainty, health concerns, change in finances, changes in living arrangements, and impact on social life (Wang et al., 2020). This study examined the relationship between sources of stress and scores on the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) among Bachelors and Masters of Social Work students.

Methods: This cross-sectional study measured students’ stress levels using the PSS (Cohen and Williamson, 1988). Participants were current BSW and MSW students in a public university. Data were collected using an online demographic and PSS surveys, and 171 surveys were completed. The sample demographics included 34% of students who identified as White, 31% Hispanic/Latinx, 7% African American/Black, 15% Multiracial, and 9% Asian. The sample was primarily female (93%), over age 24 (58.6%), and had no children (61.1%). The majority reported living with others, including family (46%), partners (25%), roommates (16%), or other (4%). Multivariate regressions examined relationships between demographic variables, sources of stress, and scores on the Perceived Stress Scale.

Results: The mean score on the 10-item Perceived Stress Scale (PSS; range 3-44) across all respondents was 22.54 (SD = 6.07). Most common sources of stress reported included “having trouble focusing on studies and/or work” (66.5%), “feeling disconnected from friends and/or loved ones (60.4%), “finding joy while coping with the pandemic” (39%), “feeling unhappy in my living space” (35.2%), “having my basic needs met” (26.4%), and “limited access to mental health services” (22%). Approximately one fifth (20.3%) of the sample reported that their living arrangement changed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Results of the multiple regression suggest that, controlling for demographic variables, students whose living arrangement changed reported significantly higher perceived stress than those whose living arrangements did not change (β = 2.65, p <.01). Those who reported difficulties meeting their own basic needs reported significantly higher perceived stress levels (β = 2.66, p <.05) and those who had “limited access to mental health [services]” also had higher perceived stress (β = 2.85, p <.01).

Conclusions and Implications: The COVID-19 pandemic has increased stress levels among students. Many report housing instability, threats to meeting basic needs, and difficulty accessing mental health services – all of which impact a students’ ability to focus on learning. High levels of stress among students threatens their academic performance (Rafidah et al., 2009) and may impact experiences in field education. To ensure that this cohort of Social Work students advances in their training, leaders and educators in higher education need to examine new practices to address both the holistic well-being and academic performance of students.