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Publication

COVID-19 related experiences among college students with and without disabilities: Psychosocial impacts, supports, and virtual learning environments

McMaughan, Darcy Jones
Rhoads, Kelley E.
Davis, Crys
Chen, Xuewei
Han, Ho
Jones, Richard A.
Mahaffey, Carlos C.
Miller, Bridget M.
Abstract
This cross-sectional analysis estimated differences, based on disability status, in college students' (n = 777) experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. Data were modeled using t-tests and logistic regression. Most participants were white (86.2%), and women (66.4%). The mode age was 23. A third (35.6%) had at least one disability. Students reported high rates of psychosocial distress, like fear of contracting (59.7%) and spreading (74.3%) COVID-19, worry about friends and family (83.7%), and increased anxiety (72.5%), depression (59.9%), and substance use (24.7%). Forty-two percent (42.2%) were scared they would miss out on their education through virtual classes. About a third feared forgetting assignments (34.1%) and making mistakes (33.9%). Fewer students expressed apprehension about (27.9%) and intimidation by (26.3%) virtual learning. Only 17.2% would continue taking virtual classes after the pandemic. Students with disabilities (M = 12.4, SD = 4.1) experienced more psychosocial stressors compared to students without disabilities (M = 9.9, SD = 4.2), [t(775) = 7.86, p < 0.001]. In adjusted models, disabled students were more than twice as likely to experience worry about medical bills (OR = 2.29), loneliness (OR = 2.09), and increased anxiety (OR = 2.31). They were also more than three times as likely to report increased depression (OR = 3.51) and changes in sexual activity (OR = 3.12). However, students with disabilities (M = 1.5, SD = 1.1) also reported receiving more support compared to their non-disabled classmates (M = 1.1, SD = 1.1), [t(775) = 6.06, p < 0.001]. Disabled students were more likely to feel a sense of contributing to society by following precautions (OR = 1.80) and receive support from family and others (emotional support: OR = 2.01, financial support: OR = 2.04). Interestingly, no significant differences were found in students' feelings associated with online or virtual learning [t(526.08) = 0.42, p = 0.68]. Students with disabilities, though, trended toward reporting negative experiences with virtual learning. In conclusion, students with disabilities were disproportionately affected by COVID-19 stressors, but also expressed more support and a sense of contributing to the common good.
Date
2021-12-10