College Students' Perception of Control Relates to Depressive Symptoms During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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Julianne Origlio
Cathleen Stough


By Julianne Origlio, Psychology

Advisor: Cathleen Stough

Presentation ID: 135

Abstract: Background: The occurrence of the COVID-19 pandemic presents the potential for adverse psychological responses, particularly among college students who already face high rates of depression. Additionally, an individual's perception of control over conditions in their lives, known as locus of control, may serve as either a risk or protective factor for depressive symptoms during the pandemic. The current study examines the relations between depressive symptoms and locus of control in college students during the COVID-19 pandemic. Method: Participants were 341 undergraduate students aged 18-24 recruited from the University of Cincinnati. Participants completed an online cross-sectional survey in Fall 2020 that included self-report measures of depressive symptoms and locus of control orientation. Results: Most participants (83.3%, N = 284) reported that the pandemic negatively impacted their mental health and a majority of participants (51%, N = 174) scored at moderate to severe depressive symptom severity during the pandemic (M = 24.81, SD = 8.62). Internal locus of control orientation was negatively correlated with depressive symptoms (r = -0.16, p < 0.01) and external locus of control orientation was positively correlated with depressive symptoms (r = 0.28, p < 0.01). Conclusions: The occurrence of the COVID-19 pandemic presents a risk for adverse mental health outcomes among college students, especially for those scoring high in externally oriented locus of control. An increased presence of mental health resources is needed on college campuses and therapeutic efforts should promote internally regulated responses to the stressors presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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COVID-19 Impacts and Innovations