Often for the first time, they’re living away from their families and communities. They’re suddenly presented with new surroundings, social situations, and a heavy academic workload.
Very often these new challenges can feel overwhelming, leading to depression or anxiety. Sometimes this extra pressure can worsen a previously existing condition or trigger its onset.
Many college students experience mental health challenges, two of the most common of these being anxiety and depression.
Often, the symptoms are short-term and can be directly linked to the challenges of being a new student, such as feelings of loneliness. Sometimes it can take a semester or two for students to develop friendships. This transition time may temporarily affect many students’ mental health as a 2012 study found that social support is one of the most important factors for promoting well-being in college students.
Once students begin gaining a sense of belonging at school, many will find their anxiety and depression symptoms begin subsiding as well. Other students, however, may find their symptoms to be the start of a mental health disorder.
In fact, early adulthood is when many mental health disorders first appear. A 2014 study revealed that by age 25, of those who will develop a mental health disorder have already had their first onset.
The distress that comes with anxiety and depression can impact many aspects of a student’s life.
revealed that untreated mental health is linked to alcohol and substance misuse, relationship instability, lower self-esteem, and suicidal thoughts.
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health disorders, affecting about of college students. Many of these disorders show their first symptoms during adolescence or early adulthood.
Some of the most common anxiety disorders include:
While social anxiety often begins in childhood or adolescence (usually around ages 7-14), the other anxiety disorders may first appear or get triggered during the stressful college years.
But even among students who aren’t diagnosed with a specific anxiety disorder, many are vulnerable to high levels of anxiety in college.
A 2018 survey found that 63% of college students in the United States reported feeling “overwhelming anxiety” in the past year. About 23% reported being diagnosed or treated by a mental health professional in the past year.
Anxiety has spiked in college students in recent years. A small found that 71% of college students had increased stress and anxiety due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Depression occurs in about of college students, but it can begin much earlier in life. In fact, of all depression cases have their first onset by age 18.
Suicide is also a major concern, as it’s the third leading cause of death among young adults, according to the . A large found that among 8,155 students, 6.7% reported having suicidal thoughts, 1.6% reported having a suicide plan, and 0.5% had attempted suicide in the past year.
Mental health is a growing concern on college campuses across the United States. According to a 2018 study, more than 95% of directors at college counseling centers report that managing students’ mental health is a growing concern.
This study also revealed that mental health problems have increased significantly among college students in recent decades. The number of students entering college with a mental health disorder has increased as well.
While it’s not entirely clear what’s causing this trend, a 2018 study suggests that adolescents who spent more time on electronic devices (social media, smartphones, and gaming) and less time engaging in activities without electronics had decreased psychological well-being.