U.S. Graduate Students’ Prevalence of Post-traumatic Stress Symptoms during the COVID-19 Pandemic


  • Garrett H. Gowen Iowa State University
  • Kelly E. Knight Montana State University
  • Thomas R. Brooks Texas A&M University-Commerce
  • Colter Ellis Montana State University
  • Craig A. Ogilvie Montana State University
  • Rosemary J. Perez University of Michigan
  • Sarah L. Rodriguez Texas A&M University-Commerce
  • Nina Schweppe Montana State University
  • Laura L. Smith University of Michigan
  • Rachel A. Smith Iowa State University




Graduate students, Post-traumatic stess, COVID-19, Graduate Education, Pandemic, College & Universities


OBJECTIVE: The objective was to learn the extent that graduate students amid the COVID-19 pandemic exhibited post-traumatic stress symptoms.

METHODS: We surveyed graduate students at twelve U.S. universities and analyzed 4,036 survey responses.

RESULTS: 31% of graduate student respondents described post-traumatic stress symptoms (PTSS), defined as experiencing strong reactions on an ongoing basis to events they would usually take in stride. Women and students from historically marginalized racial groups reported greater PTSS than men and White students. PTSS were correlated with food and housing insecurity, concerns about career plans, and degree timelines. PTSS were lower for students who felt supported by advisors and institutional policy changes.

CONCLUSIONS: Combined with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s trauma guidelines, our results provide a basis for university leaders’ actions to support graduate students; readily accessible food and housing assistance, policies that facilitate effective advising, and enhanced student agency via career planning.


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How to Cite

Gowen, G. H., Knight, K. E., Brooks, T. R., Ellis, C., Ogilvie, C. A., Perez, R. J., Rodriguez, S. L. ., Schweppe, N., Smith, L. L., & Smith, R. A. (2023). U.S. Graduate Students’ Prevalence of Post-traumatic Stress Symptoms during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Journal of Trauma Studies in Education, 2(1), 40–61. https://doi.org/10.32674/jtse.v2i1.4291



Research Papers