The preliminary data is based on participation by 1,083 students across 31 CollegesLouis Ashworth

The preliminary data from the first two weeks of the Student Experiences in the Pandemic (STEP) study indicates that “Cambridge students seem to experience more mental distress than population representative young people before the COVID-19 pandemic,” the writers of the report concluded.

The first set of data was published on February 26th, and has yet to be peer-reviewed.

The study computed a ‘standardised mental distress score’, with more positive scores corresponding to more distress.

The mean score for young people is 0.02, lower than the mean score for Cambridge students between February 5th and 19th, which was 1.03 in the first week of the study, and 1.00 in the second week. 

Participants were asked four questions each day, and were asked to provide answers on a scale of 1 (not at all) to 5 (all the time) on the following topics: how positive they felt about their mental health and wellbeing; felt lonely; felt supported by their College and/or the University, and been on top of “what you needed to get done.” 

This data is based on participation by 1,083 students across 31 Colleges, of which 766 were female, 297 male, and 20 preferred not to say. 

An email (05/03) updating students on Covid-19 cases at the University from Dr Ben Warne, Dr Nicholas Matheson and Professor Duncan McFarlane, who organise the University’s Asymptomatic Screening programme, noted that the total number of students participating in the study has increased to 1,600 since the first two weeks of data was collected. The email also encouraged students to participate as the data “can help us understand what is happening in order to help the University design better policies to support our students.” 


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The publication of the report comes a month after the launch of the study at the beginning of February. An email introducing students to the study when it began noted that “from previous research we know that lockdowns, social isolation, uncertainty and disrupted opportunities can have a considerable effect on students’ mental health and wellbeing.”

The study, designed by a team from the University’s School of Clinical Medicine led by Professors Peter Jones and Tamsin Ford, “aims to better understand how mental health and wellbeing are impacted and shaped in Cambridge students during the pandemic.”

The daily surveys taken by participants monitor wellbeing and attempt to pinpoint risk factors, such as loneliness, and “resilience factors”, such as social support.

Participants will also receive personalised 'mental distress level' feedback which will compare scores to those demonstrating the mental distress of young people in the UK prior to the pandemic.