By Elsa Rolfs
We have all experienced this pandemic, some in different ways than others. The group of people I wanted to look at for this article are the people that we see almost every day: our classmates. Throughout this reading, I will discuss my findings when collecting data about the students at Byram Hills High School.
To conduct this experiment, I created a Google form that was shared with students of all grades. We received a total of 44 responses, consisting of 10 freshmen, 19 sophomores, eight juniors, and seven seniors. The questions on the form consisted of their name (optional), a scale from 1-10 marking how much the pandemic has affected their mental health, and several multiple-choice questions of which I will be going further into depth about later on.
Note: p-values weren’t derived, and findings aren’t statistically significant.
In general, how much has the pandemic affected your mental health on a scale from 1-10?
The average response rating was 6.67; however, what I find the most interesting is how the pandemic has affected each grade. Freshman responses averaged 7.5, sophomores averaged 6.68, juniors averaged 6.37, and seniors averaged 6.14. This trend shows a steady decrease as each grade increases–but why? I think that the level of maturity and ability to adapt has had an effect on these numbers. As the age increases, the average impact decreases. This trend could easily be due to another factor, but the maturity level is something to take into consideration. For example, it would be predicted that seniors would be impacted the most because their last year of high school has been altered, along with their sophomore and junior years. This drastic difference between their reality of high school and what is expected could also have had an impact on their mental health. However, that is just a theory. Everyone has been impacted by the pandemic differently, and that theory may apply to some more than others or no one at all. Overall, it is your theory to create and explore.
Has the pandemic affected your phone/screen usage?
We are always surrounded by screens, so their presence alone can be addicting. Moreover, during the pandemic, when we were all at home with no plans and no one to see but the people and animals we live with, it is likely that you, as did I, resorted to your phone as a source of entertainment. Furthermore, it is probable those habits stuck with you even as things start to return to normal. When students were asked about their screen usage as a result of the pandemic, almost every student responded that it was impacted (79.5% or 35/44 to be exact). Even 100% of the senior respondents said that their screen usage has increased, and in the other grades the same can be concluded. Additionally, only one student responded “no,” and eight students said “kind of.”
Has the pandemic affected your anxiety?
Anxiety is something that many people deal with on a regular basis, and research has shown that the pandemic has negatively impacted this mental health issue in the larger population. When it comes to the students of Byram, the answers to this question were pretty consistent: 60% of freshmen said “yes,” as did 73.7% of sophomores, 62.5% of juniors, and 71.4% of seniors. Overall, 30 of the responses said “yes,” four said “no,” and 10 said “kind of.”
Has the pandemic affected your work ethic or ability to stay productive?
In my opinion, this question correlates with the question of the effect of the pandemic on screen time because being “addicted” or distracted by your phone can determine the amount of time that you can stay focused. Interestingly enough, the difference between the two questions was one answer: 70.5% of the responses agreed with the question.
Has the pandemic affected the way that you interact with others? (disregarding the physical differences: masks, distancing, etc.)
This final question can also be related to an increase in anxiety due to the pandemic, yet it had the least “yes” responses of all the questions: only 45.5% of all responses. Despite the lack of in-person communication and interaction for months, 18.2% of the responses said that the pandemic did not affect their interactions or evoke any sort of social anxiety. Lastly, 36.4% of responses said that this aspect of their life was “kind of” affected.
Although there is a decent amount of information that I was able to gather from this “experiment” regardless of the relatively low student to response ratio, there is more to learn. Asking the people around you, friends and family would allow you to gain a deeper understanding of their experience and is a great conversation starter, to say the least.