In college students, stress can contribute to compromised mental health, unrealized potential, and in extreme cases, loss of life. The statistics obtained through various surveys highlight the problem of college student stress and the various issues students experience because of the highly stressful environment in colleges and universities.
Data on Stress in College Students
Stress is a major problem for college students throughout the United States. Stress leads to many issues with emotional and physical health and can be brought on by a number of causes. One of the most frightening consequences of college student stress is suicide resulting from depression.
General Facts and Trends
- Associated Press and mtvU conducted a survey in 2008 on college student stress at many colleges throughout the United States. The survey found that four out of ten college students report they feel stressed often. One out of five say they feel stressed most of the time. One out of four students report experiencing daily stress and one in ten report thoughts of suicide.
- The American Freshman National Norms report from the Fall 2010 was revealing in terms of trends in college student attitudes, health, and stressors. Looking at the trends in the last two and a half decades, students' perception of their own mental health has been on a steady decline. In 2010, males and females' perception of their own emotional health hit the lowest marks in twenty five years, decreasing approximately 13% for both males and females from 2009 to 2010.
- The 2010 American Freshman National Norms reveals that concerns over finance and the economics may contribute to stress in college students. This has occurred with increased pressure from economic challenges, with more students relying on financial aid and scholarships in recent years. In 2010, more than 51% of incoming freshman had student loans, while more than 73% had grants or scholarships. Financial reasons also influenced school choice, with more than 40% of students reporting deciding to attend colleges where costs were lower than their first-choice schools, because they were closer to home or did not charge as much for tuition.
- In the mtvU Associated Press survey for 2009, more than half of students (60%) reported that severe stress interfered with their ability to complete their schoolwork more often than once, and that this statistic reflects an increase from 2008.
- The Spring 2013 edition of the National College Health Assessment, where the average age of those survey was 21 years, reported that almost half (46.3%) of all undergraduate students surveyed felt trauma or overwhelmed in regard to their academic responsibilities. Almost half of students surveyed reported they have more than average or extreme stress.
Symptoms of Stress
- The National Institute of Mental Health cited that almost one third (30%) of college students experience profound depression that interfered with daily activities. Moreover, students can confuse stress with the signs of depression.
- In an NPR article on health issues on campus, Dr. Al Glass, president of the American College Health Association, cites a 2001 study from the Journal of American College Health that revealed only 11% of students feel well rested. Insufficient sleep can be both a symptom of stress and impact the ability to cope with stress.
Stress and Mental Health
- The stressful college environment often compounds student mental health issues. The National Alliance on Mental Illness's survey, College Students Speak: A Survey Report On Mental Health, revealed that almost two-thirds (64%) of the students who drop out of college do so for mental health reasons. For many students, this represents a loss of scholarship funding, which is a loss of opportunity.
- Depression, anxiety disorders, and suicidal thoughts are interrelated. Stress is thought to be a precursor to anxiety and depression disorders. Depression increases while students attend college. Suicidal thoughts are most often associated with depression. Ninety-five percent of suicides committed in colleges were related to anxiety and depression disorders.
- In 2005, the National College Health Assessment (NCHA) surveyed 17,000 college students. Fifteen percent of the female students and 12% of male students reported they have felt so depressed it was difficult to function three to eight times in the past 12 months. Eleven percent of female students and 9% of male students reported that they seriously considered suicide.
- In 2012, the National Survey of College Counseling revealed that there were 106 college student suicides on the 293 campuses that participated in this study. Out of the 106 students who committed suicide, one fifth of the suicides were due to academic problems.
- The second leading cause of death among college students is suicide.
- An American Journal of Health Studies study reveals that teaching time management techniques can be more effective at reducing stress levels in college students for both males and females than engaging in leisure activities.
Help for Student Stress
The statistics on college student stress reveal that stress is a common problem. If you or someone you know is experiencing an overwhelming amount of stress, it is important to seek out help immediately. Prolonged stress has negative physical and mental health consequences.
College student stress is at an all-time high, and thanks to the number of surveys conducted on the problem, so is awareness of the problem. Your university has a number of resources and interventions to help students manage their stress. Every school has a counseling center to help students with a wide range of problems. If you don't feel comfortable going into the center, call and ask for a hotline, or if you can, talk to someone over the phone.