The first year of college is stressful for most students; we can all agree on that. But in recent years, studies have shown that college freshmen are reporting lower levels of emotional health than ever before.
UCLA collected responses from over 200,000 college freshmen from around the country about their emotional health. Only 51 percent of the students reported that their mental health was above average, an alarming 3.4 percent drop from last year’s survey. Though both male and female students expressed low emotional health, there were significantly more female students that reported stress and other problems.
Researchers involved in the study believe that one of the main reasons for the decline in emotional health can be attributed to stress. Students face stress in all aspects of their lives, from schoolwork, friendships, relationships and finances. The stress can lead students to poor time management and higher alcohol consumption, two factors that only continue to add stress to their lives.
Many students expect to be extremely successful in their first year of college, and when they are not, problems occur. It is typical for students to come to college and, overwhelmed with all of the new experiences, perform significantly worse than in high school. More high school seniors report feeling stressed about their grades and their success, and this stress follows them to college.
Another issue that is relevant now more than ever is financial stress. Students have to maintain their grades for scholarships, forcing them to focus more on their schoolwork than on relaxing or spending time with friends.
In the past, students with mental health issues avoided college altogether. With better treatment for mental illness and less stigma associated with emotional health problems, more and more students are getting the opportunity to go to college.
Despite the decline in emotional health, students in the study seem optimistic. 47 percent of freshman expect to be involved on campus, and 58 percent believe that their overall college experience will be positive—the highest number in over two decades.