Nearly one in three university students say their mental health has worsened since the start of the autumn term, a report suggests.
The average life satisfaction score for students remains significantly lower than the adult population in Great Britain, according to an Office for National Statistics (ONS) survey.
The poll of 973 students in England between October and November suggests students were more likely to say their mental health and wellbeing had worsened (32%) compared with in September (26%).
The findings come after university students have returned to campuses across the UK for more in-person lessons and social activities.
Some universities are keeping some lectures online during the autumn term as they adopt a blended approach to learning amid the pandemic.
Experimental figures from the ONS suggest more than half of students (55%) believe their academic performance has been significantly or majorly affected since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
The average life satisfaction score for students was 6.6 out of 10, which was lower than those aged 16 to 29 in general (7.0) and the adult population in Great Britain (7.1), the ONS said.
On vaccination, 91% of students said they have already been jabbed against Covid-19 at least once – with a higher proportion of students reporting having had two doses (85%) than in late September (78%).
Nearly half (49%) of students said they had taken at least one Covid-19 test in the past week – even if they have not had symptoms.
Tim Gibbs, head of the ONS’s Student Covid-19 Insights Study, said: “It is encouraging the majority of students report being vaccinated against Covid-19, and many would get tested if they developed symptoms.
“However, a third of students sadly reported their mental health and wellbeing had worsened since the start of the autumn term.”
Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi) think tank, said: “This shows that students are largely very sensible – they are getting tested and vaccinated and they are trying to progress with their studies as best they can.
“But they are not finding life as easy as they had hoped because student life continues to be so disrupted by Covid.
“Going away to university is a big transition point at the best of times; it is extra stressful in the very odd times in which we live.
“Given the recent votes for industrial action, I hope everyone will now reflect on how bad it could be to add strikes to this unfortunate mix.”
Staff at universities have voted in favour of strike action in two ballots over pensions and pay and working conditions, which means students at 58 institutions could be affected by walkouts before the end of the year.
The University and College Union’s higher education committee will meet on Friday to decide the next steps.
Hillary Gyebi-Ababio, vice-president for higher education at the National Union of Students (NUS), said: “It is such a shame that students feel their mental health has worsened since the start of the pandemic.
“But, sadly, it’s hardly a surprise – this Government has treated students appallingly throughout the past 18 months, so I’m not shocked that the vast majority simply don’t trust them to act in their interests.
“As well as being deeply unfair, this research is a truly damning verdict.”
Enjoy the convenience of having The Sunday Post delivered as a digital ePaper straight to your smartphone, tablet or computer.
Subscribe for only £5.49 a month and enjoy all the benefits of the printed paper as a digital replica.Subscribe