Introduction: In response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, most universities experienced drastic operational changes with shifts to online learning, work-from-home policies, and social distancing measures. These changes have caused concern for social isolation and mental health.
Purpose: This cross-sectional study explores differences in COVID-19 experiences, behaviors, beliefs, and well-being among students and employees (faculty and staff) at a rural Appalachian university.
Methods: Data were collected with an online anonymous survey in September-October 2020 using convenience sampling. The survey measured multiple domains including COVID-19-related 1) beliefs, 2) symptoms and diagnoses, 3) exposure and preventive behavior, and 4) social, mental, and financial health. Chi-square tests and linear regression models were used to determine differences in survey responses between students and employees.
Results: The final sample used for analysis included 416 respondents. The majority of respondents believed COVID-19 was a serious disease and followed mask and social distancing guidelines, although employees were more likely to adhere to mask and social distancing guidelines compared to students. Most of the respondents (>50%) reported feeling more stressed, anxious, and sad since the pandemic began. Students were more impacted by the pandemic compared to employees as measured by the mental, social, and financial impact scale. A limitation of this study was that convenience sampling was used instead of a probability sampling technique, which limits the inference that can be made from the results.
Implications: There may be a need for greater mental health support among university employees and students. However, future studies should confirm these findings.
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Wisnieski L, Carney KA, Thornley JL. COVID-19 Experiences, Behaviors, Beliefs, and Well-Being Among Students and Employees at a University in Rural Appalachia: A Cross-Sectional Study. J Appalach Health 2021;3(4):109–22. DOI: https://doi.org/10.13023/jah.0304.09