Exploratory study finds challenges, coping skills, and mental health impact in doctorate students during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic were different by gender.
Completing a doctorate-level degree under normal circumstances is tough enough. Going through it in the midst of a global pandemic only increases the difficulty. Further, a recent study by Sverdlik et al found significant differences in reported challenges, coping strategies and mental health impact between genders during the COVID-19 pandemic (2022).
In June 2020, researchers collected information from 708 participants currently enrolled in doctorate programs. Participants identified as female (76.3 percent), male (21.8 percent), and other (1.9 percent). Those who chose other were provided space to further identify; due to the small percentage of these individuals, they were not included in the correlational computations. However, simple cross-tabs analysis of the 1.9 percent was completed to determine if their reported challenges and coping skills differed from the other group.
Collectively, results suggest that the different gender groupings each had different reported challenges and coping skills profiles.
Jointly, the top five challenges reported were “(1) inability to see family and friends, (2) being at home all the time, (3) blurring of work and leisure/family time, (4) being isolated, and (5) inability to access the university.”
The top five coping strategies reported across all participants were “(1) seeking social support from family/friends, (2) working, (3) exercising, (4) watching television, and (5) creating a routine that I am comfortable with.”
The authors report that there were gender-related differences in the emotional and psychological experiences with female doctorate students reporting greater risk and higher levels of anxiety and depression.
The authors suggest that these findings may inform supervisors and other academic administrators responsible for providing mental health guidance and other resources.
Sverdlik A, Hall NC, Vallerand, RJ (2022). Doctoral students and COVID-19: exploring challenges, academic progress, and well-being. Educational Psychology. DOI: 10.1080/01443410.2022.2091749.
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