Methods: We use a longitudinal survey of 2,317 Israeli students collected during the 2020-2021 school year. After confirming a valid latent construct of social support, we test a moderated mediation model of social support, academic coping, anxiety and depression, and teaching quality. Given the nature of our data and multiple waves of data collection, we utilize a cross-lagged panel model. All model fit indices demonstrate excellent levels of fit.
Results: We discover that social support improves mental health through academic coping, which represents the mediating effect of the model. The improvement of mental health through academic coping via social support only happens for students who perceive good teaching during the pandemic, demonstrating the moderating effect of the model. These relationships hold for depression, not for anxiety, which infers that social support does not significantly relate to anxiety through academic coping.
Conclusions and Implications: Universities should continue to offer opportunities to build social support for students. At the same time, the effectiveness of support is contingent on good academic teachers. Therefore, universities should continue to invest in methods to offer high quality instruction, regardless of format. Nevertheless, while the aforementioned relationships apply to depression, they do not pertain to anxiety. This means that universities should continue to explore approaches of providing support for students experiencing anxiety.