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    Depression and Anxiety Symptom Severity in Students with Physical or Mental Chronic Health Conditions during 2020-21 Academic Year: A Longitudinal Study

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    Introduction: After the COVID-19 pandemic, national surveys indicated an increase in mental health conditions reported by undergraduates. Depression and anxiety can contribute to worse performance, including university work. However, there is limited research comparing depression and anxiety symptom severity between students with mental or physical chronic health conditions (CHCs) since the pandemic. The current study fills that gap by examining depression and anxiety severity in undergraduate students with CHCs. Method: Undergraduate students (n = 212) at Eastern Washington University completed online surveys during Fall, Winter, and Spring quarters of the 2020-21 academic year. Surveys included CHC questions and a validated measure of anxiety and depressive symptom severity. Paired samples t-tests addressed changes in levels of depression and anxiety severity over time. One-way ANOVAs and independent samples t-tests addressed mean differences across students with anxiety, depression, other mental CHCS, and students without CHCs. Results: Depression and anxiety symptom severity was stable across time for students with any combination of CHCs and those with no CHCs. Students with co-occurring anxiety and depression reported greater levels of anxiety symptom severity across time when compared to students with only physical CHCs, other mental CHCs, and no CHCs; however, those differences tended to end by Spring quarter. Discussion: Our findings are consistent with prior research demonstrating that students with co-occurring anxiety and depression may experience lower quality of life. Future studies that target students with combinations of anxiety and depression CHCs may need to be conducted to examine possible interventions for this population
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