National college COVID-19 study:

Impact of the pandemic on US college students’ mental health and decision-making

Preliminary findings 

Creator: Sean Rayford  |  Credit: Getty Images

Christina Hoven, DrPH, MPH

Professor of epidemiology and psychiatry

Larkin McReynolds, PhD, MPH

Assistant professor of epidemiology and psychiatry

Lawrence Amsel, MD, MPH

Assistant professor of clinical psychiatry 

A team of researchers at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and New York State Psychiatric Institute has embarked on NIH’s funded national, comprehensive longitudinal study of how college students in the United States are being impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic—and how they are seizing the moment to redefine their futures. Their study will examine how the pandemic has impacted students’ and families’ lives across multiple domains including health, finances, and housing and will ask about how students’ immediate and long-term plans have changed. The researchers also seek to understand how these life changes may be affecting students’ mental health, substance use, and decision-making.

Please join this special presentation to hear more about the study and some of its preliminary findings. In addition, the research team would like to invite all college undergraduates in the U.S. to help this groundbreaking study by taking the online survey HERE (it will remain open until the end of May 2021)

There will be time for moderated audience questions.


Dr. Christina Hoven, a Child Psychiatric Epidemiologist, is a graduate of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. She is a Professor of Epidemiology and Psychiatry and Director of the Global Psychiatric Epidemiology Group at the Columbia University Medical Center. Professor Hoven is well known for designing and conducting large-scale epidemiological studies, both nationally and internationally, always geared to having significant consequences on public policy by including a major focus on disparities and other social justice issues. In 2002, Professor Hoven conducted an investigation of the effects on NYC public school children of the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. That study of more than 8,200 children won international recognition for its methodological sophistication, with its inclusion of children indirectly affected by being far from Ground Zero. Dr. Hoven then testified before the U.S. Senate, ultimately leading to approximately $150 million being allocated to NYC-MA for mental health.

Professor Hoven is currently longitudinally following three large cohorts of children in the New York City Metropolitan Area. One assesses children of a mother or father involved with the criminal justice system. Another examines the psychological consequences to children indirectly exposed to 9/11, based on parental involvement with the WTC attack, such as evacuees and First Responders. Another focuses on children directly exposed to 9/11 at ages 0-17. Dr. Hoven has carried out investigations throughout the world, including a nine-country study of child mental health awareness done in collaboration with WHO and the World Psychiatric Association; a suicidal autopsy study of youth in Tajikistan, done in collaboration with UNICEF, and; in collaboration with the Karolinska Institute, an 11 country Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT) with 11,000 school children in 10 countries investigating suicide prevention; and a nine-country RCT of 9,000 school children, that assessed school drop-out. Currently, she is doing a national suicide study (nationally representative community sample, attempters and completers) in Guyana, as well as health workers in Taiwan.

Professor Hoven is currently also attempting to identify biological markers of familial transmission of substance abuse and other psychopathologies through genetics, epigenetics, neuro-imaging, etc., in her epidemiological samples.


Dr. Larkin McReynolds is an Assistant Professor of Clinical Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia (CU-SPH). Dr. McReynolds has extensive experience conducting research initiatives aimed at improving screening and service access for youth involved with the juvenile justice system. She is a national expert regarding the use and analysis of the Voice Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children (V-DISC) and other audio computer administered screening interviews (ACASI) for behavioral assessment in juvenile justice settings. Dr. McReynolds has extensive experience coordinating collaborative, multi-site research projects, as well as the merging, cleaning, and analyzing of psychiatric and official administrative records. More recently, her research interests have expanded to examine short- and long-term emotional/behavioral and general health outcomes among persons who experience trauma and/or adversity during adolescence.


Dr. Lawrence Amsel serves as an Attending Psychiatrist and a Research Psychiatrist at Columbia University. He also serves as an expert witness in matters related to psychiatry. His areas of expertise include: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Suicide, Grief, Medical Decision Making, Hospital Psychiatric Care, Appropriate Evidence-based Standards of Care, and Malpractice. Dr. Amsel studied mathematics at Columbia University before entering Yale University School of Medicine. After completing residency training he joined the Columbia faculty completing two National Institute of Mental Health research fellowships and obtained a Masters in Public Health (MPH) specializing in mental health statistics and Child Psychiatry Research. As an expert in the effects of traumatic experiences, after 9/11, Dr. Amsel co-directed the Trauma Studies and Services Division at the New York State Psychiatric Institute. Dr. Amsel was one of the early champions of the application of Mathematical Modeling based on Decision Science, Game Theory, and Behavioral Economics to psychiatric research.

Additional notes: Two unique aspects of the study are the evaluation of students’ decision-making styles and their values orientation, using sophisticated measures of these domains. This study aims to identify the decision-making styles that are most predictive of effective and successful outcomes, both individually and societally. The researchers plan to follow these students into their futures and to examine the evolution of their perspectives, behaviors, and innovative responses to the emerging post-COVID-19 world. They hope that the knowledge gained from this study will significantly inform academic, institutional, and public policy. Study investigators at Columbia University and the New York State Psychiatric Institute are: Christina Hoven, DrPH, MPH, professor of epidemiology and psychiatry; Larkin McReynolds, PhD, MPH, assistant professor of epidemiology and psychiatry; Lawrence Amsel, MD, MPH, assistant professor of clinical psychiatry; and Michaeline Bresnahan, PhD, MPH, associate professor of epidemiology in psychiatry.

February 18, 2021 at 6:30pm - 8pm


Washington, DC
United States

Kambiz Rahnavardy

Emily Dietsch Ellen Fox

Will you come?