College Stress

A group of researchers in France have surveyed college students’ mental health and found that a number of symptoms of psychological distress are widespread on university campuses.

The study, which involved 483 students between the ages of 18 and 24, tracked participants over the course of three months. Students were asked to complete a variety of questionnaires looking at stress and overall psychological wellbeing.

And it turned out that the students were pretty stressed, alright.

In fact, seventy-three percent of participants reported experiencing psychological distress. Seventy-nine percent reported experiencing symptoms of depression, and a full 86 percent had symptoms of anxiety.

There’s more. Fifty-eight percent of the students in the study were suffering from low self-esteem, and 57 percent from low levels of optimism. Meanwhile, 63 percent reported a low sense of self-efficacy. Analyzing the data, the researchers found that higher psychological distress, lower life satisfaction, lower optimism, lower self-esteem and lower self-efficacy all predicted higher levels of stress.

So there are two possibilities here. Either researchers have managed to find the world’s least mentally health university, or college students in general are seriously stressed out.

These stats should be a wake-up call about mental health on college campuses. As if poor mental health, low life satisfaction, and high psychological distress isn’t a bad enough problem by itself, stress among college students is also detrimental to physical health.

For example, stress in college has been linked to smoking, skipping meals and obesity. Additionally, it is associated with risk for musculoskeletal disorders.

The good news is that there are effective ways of coping with stress in college. One study found that either participating in regular physical activity or in a psychological stress management intervention can lower levels of perceived stress, test anxiety and end-of-semester burnout in college.

Of course, the first step to reducing stress on college campuses is acknowledging that it’s a problem – and this new study makes it pretty hard not to do that!

Image: Flickr/CollegeDegrees360 under CC BY-SA 2.0