Date of Defense


Date of Graduation



Human Performance and Health Education

First Advisor

Carol Weideman

Second Advisor

Sabbi Merz


Investigation into the mental and physical well-being of students is essential to discover what is affecting students, and possible solutions to guarantee success and mental well-being for future generations. This investigation consisted of comparing the executive summary report data of the National College Health Assessment (NCHA) along with the Healthy Minds Study. The executive summary from the NCHA was also compared to the summary report data for students attending Western Michigan University (WMU) to identify the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the mental well-being of students prior to Spring, 2019 to the most recent data available Spring 2020 and 2021. Comparing the mental well-being of students included comparing levels of anxiety and depression as well as the academic impact of anxiety and depression. Also compared were some but not all factors that play a role in mental health, such as substance abuse, nutrition, and exercise. Overall, the levels of anxiety and depression have increased both nationally and at WMU. The impact on academics from depression, anxiety, and stress has also increased. Factors that may have contributed to the increased mental well-being include an increased number of students both meeting fruit and vegetable standards for healthy nutrition and reaching recommendations set by the American College of Sports Medicine for exercise, both nationally and at WMU. The decline in substance use and/or abuse was also present both nationally and at WMU, and both reports also include lower levels of food insecurity. The lower overall mental well-being could be contributed to a lack of professional mental healthcare. In the Spring of 2020, NCHA reported that 30.1% of students received mental health services compared to the following year, Spring of 2021 reported an increase of 0.2% for a total of 30.3% of students receiving mental health services. Although this

is an increase, the number of students in psychological distress has also increased. The Covid-19 pandemic has decreased access to an already strained healthcare system (Nunez et al., 2021). This is reflected in the difference between students who are impacted by mental health and the number being treated. According to the Spring 2021 NCHA report, 75.2% of students reported moderate to serious psychological distress, compared to only 30.3% of students receiving psychological or mental health services in the last 12 months. Access to mental health care is becoming increasingly important as the mental well-being of college students continues to decline. More research should be conducted on the mental well-being of college students and access to and knowledge of mental health services. This investigation intends to compare the self-reported data between WMU and national values between several measures of mental health and exercise in college students immediately prior to the Covid-19 pandemic and to the most recent data available.

Access Setting

Honors Thesis-Restricted