Optimism, Resilience, and Other Health-Protective Factors Among Students During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Keywords: social determinants of health, social support, minority students, COVID-19, anchor instutitions


Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) suffer disproportionately from coronavirus-related illness, death, and financial loss. The aim of this retrospective, qualitative study was to better understand the experiences of BIPOC students at a Bronx-based public university during the COVID-19 pandemic. Data was collected from a reflective final exam in a health sciences course in May 2020. Responses (n = 28) were coded and analyzed using the Social Determinants of Health (SDH) framework. Several themes were identified in structural and intermediary determinant areas, including occupation, education, social cohesion, and psychosocial factors. Participants demonstrated optimism, resilience, and perseverance—protective factors against exposure to adverse SDH. Findings indicate that COVID-19 negatively impacted BIPOC students in multiple SDH areas which may have a compounding effect, hindering equity and justice. Providers of social and academic support are critical levers in addressing SDH barriers and helping students strengthen protective factors to reduce adverse impacts of health-damaging determinants.