New Study: Hybrid or In-Person School Less Stressful

New research helps explain the stress of remote high school students.

Posted Feb 18, 2021

"Remote learning─and I don’t think this is a surprise to anyone─is just more challenging," explained Sarah Miles, director of research and programs at Challenge Success.

Students are struggling. They are reporting a spike in anxiety and depression since the pandemic began for a multitude of reasons─online learning, home stress, grief and loss, disconnection (CDC, 2020). Of course, I cannot blame any of them. This is an unprecedented time, which has stretched every student’s ability to connect, engage and continue to learn, especially remotely. While most adults agree that students need to get back to in-person learning, at least part-time, a new study supports the assertion that students attending in-person school (or hybrid) are less stressed than their fully remote peers.

2021 Study Findings

NBC News and Challenge Success teamed up to ask over 10,000 American students in 12 high schools about their schooling experience, especially amidst the pandemic (NBC News, 2021). More than 50% percent of the students said they were more stressed in 2020 than before, and some other key points were:

  • Remote students expressed more stress (mental and physical)
  • Students across the board are physically feeling stressed (headaches, exhaustion, sleeplessness)
  • Remote students did more homework weekly (90 minutes, on average)
  • Remote students felt more disconnected (less likely to feel they can “talk to someone” about a problem) and worried about grades

The biggest takeaway is that students in high school reported less stress when they attended school in-person for at least part of the week. Of course, there still needs to be all the protocols in place such as social distancing, mask-wearing, and washing of the hands, but that these teens in their adolescence yearn for connection to their school community (teachers, peers, class, events). With the rise in depression and unfortunately, suicide in many communities (NY Times, 2021), we need to prioritize the emotional and social needs of adolescence, too.

The Emergency is an Emotional One

Our students are not alright. The rise of suicides among adolescence (unfortunately, in my own community, too) is a “wake up” call that the emergency is not an academic one─it’s genuinely in high school a social and emotional one. Students need to feel connected and supported. Hopefully, it won’t be another year of socially distanced proms and graduations, but it might be. They need to remember that this, too, shall pass─but it will pass easier if we do it together, and hopefully at least part-time in person.


CDC (2020). Found online at:,17%20years%20increased%20approximately%2024%25.

NBC News (2021). Found online at:

NY Times (2021). Found online at: