How Has the Pandemic Affected Students’ Social-Emotional Well-Being? A Review of the Evidence to Date

Recently, the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) released a report that aims to provide a definitive account of the best available evidence on how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the social-emotional well-being of America’s students. 

CRPE compiled hundreds of studies and convened panels of experts to interpret what the data show. Initial reports assess what we know to date about the pandemic’s effects. 

The organization aims to present a coherent baseline of what we know, don’t know, and need to know at this stage of the pandemic. The report is designed to help system leaders, community leaders, policymakers, researchers, philanthropies, the media, and others to define ambitious goals and clear metrics that ensure our education system meets every student’s needs over the coming years. 

Initial findings include the following:

  • A significant  portion  of  young  people,  likely  30  to  40  percent,  have  experienced  negative impacts on their mental or social-emotional health during the pandemic. 
  • Students who  learned  remotely  for  long  periods  of time and historically  marginalized students were more likely to experience these negative effects. 
  • Rates of anxiety and attempted suicides, already on the rise pre-pandemic, appear to have increased among all students, especially among girls. 
  • While some students fared well initially, or even fared better when learning remotely than they did in person before the pandemic, these positive effects did not last. Negative effects for students increased over time. 
  • Schools and districts, especially in rural areas without a strong social-service infrastructure, lacked systems to track student well-being or strategies to address and improve it.

Students  have  been  deeply  affected  by  the  pandemic,  including  by  sudden—and  in  many cases—lengthy separations from their school communities. Recovering from this long-term crisis  calls  for  a  comprehensive  approach.  Schools  must  provide  necessary  mental  health supports  and opportunities to regain and enhance social-emotional  competencies, while also working  to  connect  student  communities  and  caregivers  to  form  a  cohesive  system  of  support at  home  and  at  school.  Researchers  should  investigate  and  identify  promising  ways  to  build  a strong, engaging,  and  interconnected  system  of education  and supports that fosters the  social-emotional development, mental health, and well-being that all students need to thrive. 

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