Abstract: (see Poster Gallery) Social Determinants of Education and Mental Health Wellness Among Social Work Students within an Urban Setting (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

All in-person and virtual presentations are in Mountain Standard Time Zone (MST).

SSWR 2023 Poster Gallery: as a registered in-person and virtual attendee, you have access to the virtual Poster Gallery which includes only the posters that elected to present virtually. The rest of the posters are presented in-person in the Poster/Exhibit Hall located in Phoenix A/B, 3rd floor. The access to the Poster Gallery will be available via the virtual conference platform the week of January 9. You will receive an email with instructions how to access the virtual conference platform.

380P (see Poster Gallery) Social Determinants of Education and Mental Health Wellness Among Social Work Students within an Urban Setting

Friday, January 13, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Lisa O'Donnell, PhD, Assistant Professor, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI
Debra Patterson, PhD, Professor and Associate Dean of Academic and Faculty Affairs, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI
Fay Keys, Associate Professor, Clinical, and Education Technology Coordinator, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI
Shirley Thomas, PhD, Assistant Professor, Clinical, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI
Norma Love-Schropshire, Assistant Professor, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI
Kendra Wells, LLMSW, Program/Project Assistant, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI
Background and Purpose: The emergence of the novel coronavirus in 2019 (Covid-19) severely affected society. Universities were forced to abruptly modify course delivery from traditional in-person methods to virtual learning, resulting in significant disruptions in student learning. Social work students experienced financial, psychological, occupational, and social challenges impacting their academic functioning and quality of life. Covid-19 also exacerbated educational inequity for students who have historically experienced challenges due to systemic oppression, such as those who identify as black, indigenous, people of color (BIPOC), and first-generation. It is essential to understand how the pandemic impacted diverse student populations to improve their academic functioning within Schools of Social Work for future variants, pandemics, or other worldwide crises.

Methods: This cross-sectional study is the first known study to determine which sociodemographic determinants (age, race, type of social work program, caregiver status, first-generation college student, size of household) predicted the number and type of challenges social work students experienced during the pandemic at an urban university. Challenges examined included juggling with caregiver demands, managing finances, food and housing, coping will illness, searching for a job. An online survey was distributed to all bachelor’s and master’s level social work students in November 2020. A total of 332 responded. Binomial regressions were conducted to determine which predictor variables (social determinants) were associated with outcomes variables (different types of challenges). A Poisson regression was conducted to determine which of the same predictor variables were associated with the outcome variable (greatest number of challenges).

Results: Compared to those with larger households, social work students with one to two members in their household predicted challenges related to coping with illness, grief and loss, feeling disconnected, managing finances, food and housing. Students with caregiver demands were met with challenges related to managing finances, juggling school, their caregiver responsibilities, and coping with illness. Compared to MSW students, BSW students reported the challenges juggling school with caregiver demands and coping with grief and loss. Lastly, the greatest number of challenges across all social determinants were students with larger households, caregivers, BSW students and students of color.

Conclusions and Implications: This study lends insight into the role of social determinants on social work students’ challenges in urban universities during the Covid-19 pandemic. These findings have important implications for social work education, practice, and research especially during times of crisis. Social work programs must be informed that social work students entering programs may have greater challenges than other disciplines. In particular, BSW students, students living in smaller households, students who are caregivers and students of color may have the greatest trouble coping during future variants, pandemics, or other worldwide crises. Greater resources and supports need to be in place within social work programs giving particular attention to the emotional, academic, professional and financial needs of these students. Further research could provide insights into which resources would be most helpful and how universities can implement them to address students' educational, emotional and financial well-being and better promote their learning during times of universal crisis.