Investigating the mental health outcomes of Canadian university students during the COVID-19 pandemic


Almost 10% of NCAA student-athletes indicated symptoms of depression and roughly 40% felt overwhelming anxiety (Cox, Ross-Stewart & Foltz, 2017; NCAA Sport Science Institute, 2016). Females and athletes participating in individual sports have displayed higher amounts of depression and anxiety than males and team sport athletes (Wolanin et al., 2015; Pluhar et al., 2019). Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada has implemented social distancing measures and restrictions that have affected all university students (Detsky & Bogoch, 2020). Senisik et al. (2020) discovered that during the pandemic depression and anxiety symptoms were significantly lower in athletes than non-athletes, and similar between genders and sport types. The goal of this study was to identify differences between student-athletes and non-athletes, gender, and sport type on depression, anxiety, stress, and distress symptoms in Canadian university students during the 2019/2020 academic year. The Depression Anxiety Stress Scale – 21 and Impact of Events Scale – Revised was completed by 349 student-athletes (241 male and 108 female) and 142 non-athletes (77 male and 65 female). There were no main effects for gender or sport type, but student-athletes score significantly higher than student non-athletes in depression (p<0.001), anxiety (p=0.014), stress (p<0.001), and distress (p=0.001). Interestingly, female team sport athletes reported increased levels of each variable than female individual sport athletes. In conclusion, Canadian university student-athletes reported significantly higher levels of mental distress than student non-athletes during the 2019/2020 academic year, and there were no differences within gender and sport type.