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35 Troubling College Student Stress Statistics & Facts – HealthCareers

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35 Troubling College Student Stress Statistics & Facts

Going to college is supposed to be the first step toward independence. It should be a joyful period in which students enjoy the perks of their newfound freedom. However, the following college student stress statistics paint a different picture of what is supposed to be a beautiful period of our lives. 

Starting new friendships, living with a roommate, and fulfilling parental expectations might put a lot on the plates of college students, especially in their freshman years. And the data reveals that college depression and anxiety do not ease up throughout college. 

Heavy workloads, internships, and additional work leave students no time to sleep and relax. Furthermore, loans are hovering over many students’ heads, adding to the existing pressure of academic success. 

All of this brings us to the following insightful statistics and facts.

The Top 10 College Student Stress Statistics

  • Clinicians identified anxiety as the top concern for the mental health of college students.
  • 25% of college students work full-time while also being enrolled full-time.
  • Self-identity conflicts contribute to suicide risks in college students.
  • 30–40% of college students take double majors, which adds to their stress levels.
  • 70% of college students qualify their financial situation as stressful.
  • Only 23.1% of female students feel safe on their campus at night. 
  • 9.2% of college students have been diagnosed and treated for a psychiatric condition in 2018.
  • Depression, anxiety, trauma, and suicidality have been on the rise in college students since 2013.
  • 63.4% of college students felt overwhelming anxiety in 2018.
  • 1.7% of college students attempted suicide in 2018.

Causes of Stress in College Students: Stats and Facts

1. For more than half of college students, academic problems are the most stressful ones. 

(ACHA Report) 

The 2018 survey found that academic workload is the primary cause of college stress, one that was extremely hard for 50.2% of college students to handle. Finances were the second most challenging issue for 35.9% of the correspondents. 

Furthermore, around 32.9% of students were unable to cope with sleep troubles, which, according to the insomnia statistics, are physical manifestations of stress. Moreover, 54.3% of the students said they were facing three or more problems. 

2. A physical condition negatively impacted the academic performance of 30% of students, according to student stress statistics from 2018.

(WGU Edu, ACHA Report)

Following the 2018 NCHA report, 55.4% of college students were faced with a chronic or acute disease during that year, with allergies, sinus infections, and urinary tract infections being the most frequent ailments. What’s more, some of the students had a condition that impaired their academic performance, such as ADHD.

Around 4.5% of the surveyed students said that they have a chronic or severe illness that causes them stress. For 3.6% of them, the symptom of the condition was constant pain, and for 5.9% of the students, this condition was ADHD.

3. Approximately 89% of college students are victims of finals week stress, statistics show. 

(The Butler Collegian, Mental Floss) 

A 2016 Mental Help study that interviewed more than 1000 college students and examined some 2.9 million tweets around campus showed that the stress levels of college students were highest during their exam week. Around 89% of students reported feeling stressed at least two to four times per semester. 

Furthermore, finals and midterms were pointed out as the biggest source of stress for 31% of the surveyed college students. However, 30% of the students claimed that they are stressed during the entire length of the semester, putting them at risk of health deterioration, according to the mental health statistics. 

4. High education expectations lead to higher stress levels in college students, statistics reveal.

(Science Daily)

A study involving 174 students and their parents looked at the parental influence on the stress levels of college students and found that students with parents that were not very demanding made a smoother transition into college life than those who had higher expectations. 

Surprisingly, even those students that met the expectations of their parents felt that they were failing and thus suffered from low self-esteem and anxiety. Having this additional parental pressure led to burnout and depression.

5. Stats confirm that competitiveness is one of the major sources of stress among college students.

(The Washington Post, The Best Schools)

A few observations regarding the student stress levels in American colleges and high schools show that these institutions represent an “at-risk” environment for developing mental health problems, especially anxiety and depression. As noted, competitiveness already takes a toll on young people when they try to get admitted to a prestigious college. 

Once their university accepts them, the high-school graduates are already burnt out due to all the preparation and hard work. However, the high costs related to college studies add another layer of pressure; students try to outcompete their peers, and they continue to work relentlessly to make this happen.

6. Social adjustments and culture shock can also be factors of stress among college students

(Stress.org)

Moving out to attend a college, for many young Americans, means changing their surroundings and most likely moving to a bigger city. These changes may be a cultural shock for some students, notes the American Institute of Stress. New social circles, living with a roommate, and other variables are a social adjustment factor that causes stress in college students, especially in their freshman year. 

A paper published in the Research Gate underlines that first-generation college students face more problems, as they lack parental advice for the college climate. Fitting in for these students becomes as important as academic success, especially if they come from modest economic backgrounds.

7. Stress in college students, according to a scientific article, may result from self-identity conflicts, which also increase suicide risks.

(Good Morning America)

An article published in the Medical Journal of Depression and Anxiety, states that, among other known stressors, self-identity conflicts are the most common, but much ignored, reasons for stress and mental health issues among college students. The study was conducted on 67,000 college students from over 100 college campuses, and it showed that the mental health diagnoses were the most numerous in students who identified as sexual minorities. 

8. Only 23.1% of female students feel safe on their campus at night, according to a 2018 college stress survey.

(ACHA Report)

The ACHA 2018 survey concluded that less than one-quarter of female college students (23.1%) feel safe on their campus at night, which leads to an increase in the overall stress levels of college students. Furthermore, only 12.8% of them feel safe in the community or the surroundings of their school at night. 

Male students feel a little bit safer than female students in the surroundings of their school at night (32.1%). Almost half of the male students (53.8%) feel safe on their campus in the evening. During the day, 86% of male students and 79.1% of female students feel safe on their campus. 

9. Statistics about stress in college students show that physical violence in college is almost as present as in high school. 

(Salon, CCMH Report)

Today, around 21.3% of female and 5.4% of male college students reported being victims of a sexual assault on the college premises. In the 2018–2019 school year, 25% of students reported nonconsensual sexual contact or experience.

Furthermore, in a recent study on college and stress, 64.3% of college students stated that they had witnessed bullying to some extent, and a staggering 28.7% reported being the victims of college bullying. 37.9% of the college students that sought counseling said that they had been victims of harassment and a controlling or abusive behavior. 

10. Statistics on college students’ stress reveal that approximately 2.5 million students were exposed to gun violence in the period 2001–2016.

(APA Services)

Statistics show that in the period between the school years 2001–2002 and 2015–2016, there were 190 shooting accidents on college campuses, resulting in 167 victims and 270 wounded students. During this period, college shootings were aimed at 437 people in 142 colleges. In the colleges where the shootings took place, around 2.5 million college students were exposed to gun violence. 

What’s more, there’s a 241% increase in casualties of college shootings in the period 2010–2016 in comparison with the 2001–2006 period. The frequency and visibility of such events contribute to the overall stress levels of college students

11. 25% of college students work full-time while also being full-time enrolled, college, and stress statistics confirm.

(Salon)

Based on the statistics published in the book “Intern Nation” by Ross Perlin, between one and two million college students that attend four-year colleges and universities take at least one internship before they graduate. This is mostly unpaid work for which they have to cover the monthly expenses and pay for the credits. 

Furthermore, a 2015 report stated that 25% of college students that were enrolled full-time also worked full-time. This study further showed that almost 40% of undergraduate students worked 30 hours per week or more, which adds significantly to the overall stress levels of college students.

12. When it comes to stress in college students, statistics from 2018 show that 30–40% of college students take double majors, which adds to their stress levels.

(Salon)

In an attempt to respond to a tough job market and double their chances of employment, 30–40% of college students are taking double majors. The requirements for the two majors add to the students’ workload, and, consequently, increase the overall stress levels of college students. Obtaining a double major requires students to put extra effort into managing their schedules, which, in some cases, is next to impossible. 

13. A 2016 study shows that the prospect of entering a tough work market is one of the biggest causes of stress among college students.

(The Butler Collegian, Mental Floss)

A 2016 study revealed that 24% of college students were stressed by the prospect of leaving college and entering the competitive US job market. Contrary to the education that puts the academic achievements and the mental conditions of college students in the heart of student problems, these results show another aspect of the college-related student stress

Through the analysis of students’ tweets, this study avoided any predetermined questions and sorted out the worries and stressors of the college students by observation. While almost one-quarter of the students worried about their job prospects, 23% said they were overwhelmed with the coursework and 13% with their homework.

14. When we look at stress in college students through the lens of statistics from 2019, we see that finances cause stress for a staggering 70% of students.  

(CCMH Report) 

In the 2019 report, on the question of how they would describe their financial situation, 13% of more than 200,000 college students  responded with “always stressful.” 21.1% of the student responders considered their financial situation as “often stressful,” and 35.8% said that it was “sometimes stressful.”

For 21.9% of college students, their financial situation was “rarely stressful,” and for only 8.1%, it was “never stressful.” According to these results, student stress related to their financial situation during their college studies was present in some 70% of undergraduate students. 

15. Loans have an enormous impact on stress in college students, statistics from the 2017 show.

(CNBC, Credit Critics)

As the average college debt for borrowers increased from $9,400 in 1993 to 28,950 in 2014, the loan debt is an emotional and financial burden that increases the levels of pressure and stress in college students, and anxiety that continues way beyond graduation and well into the early professional life.

Today, 64% of adults feel stressed to a lesser or greater extent because of an undergraduate student loan debt. But the stress related to debt is affecting both alumni and current students, increasing the stress levels of college students in regards to their academic achievements and the fact that they’ll have to pay off the debt once they graduate. This puts substantial pressure on students to succeed, as stated in the observations of the American Psychological Association.

College Student Stress: Statistics and Trends

16. Clinicians identified anxiety as the top concern for the mental health of college students.

(CCMH Report)

On a chart that was given to clinicians to prioritize the concerns of their patients, anxiety was the top priority for the treatment of 23.5% of students that required counseling in 2019. A stressed student is also prone to depression, which is identified as a priority in 18.9% of the patients. The overall stress levels were ranked as the third top priority in the list of the most concerning issues. According to the results, academic performance was the biggest concern for 2.9% of the students. 

17. Statistics about stress in college reveal that generalized anxiety is the most common type. 

(CCMH Report) 

The CCMH 2019 report concerning student stress found that generalized anxiety is the most significant concern in 14.7% of students, although it was diagnosed in as much as 44% of counseled college students. 

Social anxiety was identified in 19.5%, but it was the priority concern in 3.8% of students. 2.2% of students were significantly affected by panic attacks, which were present in 10.8% of students. And in 2.1% of students with anxiety, this condition was present only while they were taking tests.

18. College stress is the primary factor that influences the academic performance of 33.2% of students.

(ACHA Report)

A 2018 survey by the American College Health Association (ACHA) found that stress had a substantial influence on the academic performance of 33.2% of the surveyed college students. Namely, students reported that stress was the reason why they received lower grades, failed, or completely dropped a course. 26.5% of them pointed out that their anxiety is an underlying cause of their lack of successful academic results. In the research, several student stress factors were examined, identifying mental stress as the biggest problem for the majority of students.

19. Statistics on stress in college students have shown consistent growth of depression, anxiety, trauma, and suicidality since 2013.

(CCMH Report)

The Center for Collegiate Mental Health (CCMH) report published in 2019 concludes that four particular mental health problems are on the rise in college students for the period between 2013 and 2019, and these were depression, generalized anxiety, social anxiety, trauma, and suicidality.  

While some of the other college stress generators in students, like academic performance, relationship problems, and alcohol intake, are on a steady decline since 2013, anxiety and depression are the main reasons why students seek counseling.

20. Medical colleges have the highest stress rates, college stress statistics show.

(IMED Pub)

A 2017 study that compared stress levels of medical students to the stress levels of college students from other professions concluded that medical students were more stressed, mainly because of the high academic requirements. 75.6% of them say the heavy workload is their primary stressor. Fortunately, finding a job in healthcare is not a big obstacle since health careers are on the rise

However, 54.6% of medical students said that their stress levels are high on any given day, in comparison with 15.3% of engineering students, 32% of students in commerce, and 36.6% of art students.

21. College student stress statistics place Berkeley at the top of the list of the most stressful universities.

(Study International, College Express, Niche)

When it comes to college and stress, statistics show that Berkeley is the highest-stress university in the US. Other higher education institutions on this list are New York University, Cornell University, Duke University, Pennsylvania State University, and Princeton University. 

An alternative list puts Stanford University at the top, followed by Columbia University, MIT, and Harvard. Conversely, the University of Southern California, and the University of California, followed by the University of Michigan, are rated as institutions with the best living conditions. 

22. College student stress report shows that 21.8% of college students have sleep difficulties.

(ACHA Report)

The ACHA 2018 report on the health of college students revealed that 21.8% of the surveyed students have sleeping difficulties, which affected their academic achievements. Given that only 4.4% of them reported having a chronic illness, the top reasons for sleep difficulties were heavy workload or other student stress factors, such as feeling worried about a troubled friend or a family member (11.9%), feeling homesick (4.3%), or having relationship difficulties (9.5%).

23. 63.4% of college students felt overwhelming anxiety in 2018, according to stress statistics in college students.

(ACHA Report)

The mental health results published in the ACHA report for 2018 show that overwhelming anxiety was one of the most frequent manifestations of college stress. Namely, 63.4% of students reported feeling anxious to a great extent in the past 12 months. 

More precisely, 68.9% of female and 48.8% of male respondents suffered from anxiety in the given period. 42.1% of college students also felt overwhelmingly angry at some point in the last 12-month period, and their share by gender was 43.8% for female students and 36.5% for male students. 

24. Stress among college students, according to statistics, is responsible for 1.7% of suicide attempts. 

(ACHA Report) 

A 2018 report encompassing more than 88,000 students showed that an alarming 12.1% of them seriously considered suicide, and 1.7% of them attempted to take their own lives. The attempted suicide rate was equal among female and male students, but results show that female students were more frequently considering it. Furthermore, 8.4% of female students reported self-injury, in comparison to only 4.8% of male students. Some 41.9% of students of both genders reported feeling extremely depressed in 2018, to the point that it was hard for them to function.

25. College stress statistics reveal that 53.4% of students feel hopeless at certain points in a year.

(ACHA Report) 

In a 2018 report, one of the symptoms of clinical depression, the feeling of hopelessness, was observed in 53.4% of college students, the majority of whom were female (56.1%). Conversely, 45.1% of male college students reported feeling hopeless at some points in a year. 

Other mental health factors indicating college stress include feeling lonely, which was reported by 62.8% of the total number of the surveyed students, and feeling exhausted without a physical activity, which was reported by 84.3% of students. What’s more, 87.4% of them said they were overwhelmed by their daily obligations.

Coping With College Student Stress: Stats and Facts

26. Approximately 9.5% of college students sought counseling in 2015.

(CCMH Report) 

A report that included data from 93 institutions showed that 20% of students that used the counseling centers accounted for more than half of all counseling appointments. College students who exhibited autodestructive behaviors like self-injury, consideration of suicide, or suicide attempts were making 27% more appointments than other college students. 

Mean estimations show that approximately 9.5% of the student body had a counseling session in 2015, and there were six consultations per student on average.  

27. Visits to the campus counseling centers increased by 30–40% since 2009 because of stress experienced by college students, statistics show.

(CCMH Report, NY Times)

The CCMH 2019 annual report that includes observations by the participating college counseling centers done over the last 10 years reveals a drastic 30–40% increase in the number of college students seeking consultation for the period between 2009 and 2019. 

The data collected from 163 college and university counseling centers showed that the need for counseling increased five to six times the rate of new college enrollments (29.6% of the increase in 2015 vs. 5.6% of enrollment increase), while the rate of scheduling appointments was seven times higher than the rate of institutional enrollment. 

28. College students and stress trends reveal that the average national utilization rate of counseling services is estimated at 11.8%.

(CCMH Report)

The CCMH 2019 report on students and stress shows that the average utilization rate for counseling services on the national level is 11.8%, ranging from 1% to more than 40%, depending on the institution. In 2019, 20–35% of the students needed counseling, especially during exam periods.

Following the statistical data for the Clinical Load Index in the study year 2018–2019, on average, an American college student counselor was responsible for 118 students over the year. This load index varied depending on the institution and went from 37 to 308 students per counselor.

29. While stress among college students grows, the number of college student counselors remains almost the same.

(NY Times)

Given the fact that there’s been a 30% increase in the number of college students seeking counseling in the last five years, and that the number of counselors is roughly the same, the waiting time for appointments increased nationwide.  

From the average seven business days to several months, a stressed student requiring immediate help has trouble getting it in a timely way. The staff shortages made some colleges incorporate a rule of a maximum of 12 appointments per student. However, some 155 counseling centers have opened their doors for new clinicians between 2016 and 2017.

30. Racial, sexual, and ethnic minorities rarely seek counseling for stress, college students statistics reveal. 

(CCMH Report) 

When it comes to the undergraduate students and stress, the data shows that the demographic typically eeking counseling is white in 64.5% of cases and heterosexual in 77.3% of cases. The 2019 report found that only 9.9% of counsel-seeking college students were black, 8.8% were Asian, 9.3% were Hispanic, and 5.1% were multi-racial. Furthermore, 0.7% of college students that sought counseling identified themselves as transgender (987 students).

31. 15.5% of college students don’t return for their scheduled counseling appointment, statistics on college student stress reveal.

(CCMH Report)

The most common cause for discontinuation of the stressed-student counseling sessions was the end of the academic term in 20.3% of students, followed by not showing up for a scheduled appointment in 15.5% of the cases. 11% of students did not respond, and 7.7% declined any additional counseling. In 12.8% of all cases, the treatment goals were completed. In 2019, 4.3% of counseled college students were referred to a more specialized institution and professionals of a higher rank.

32. 13.5% of students took mental health medications after starting college, student stress statistics confirm.

(CCMH Report)

A 2019 CCMH report — regarding students and stress — revealed that most of the students that were faced with mental health problems started taking therapy after they started attending college (13.5%), as opposed to 8.8% of them that took medications prior to starting college. 

Furthermore, 12.6% took prescribed mental health treatment both before and after starting college, which means that around 0.9% of college students started taking mental health medications after enrolling in college.

33. College stress statistics in 2018 reveal that 2.9% of college students use antidepressants.

(ACHA Report)

In 2018, the national survey, including 88,178 students, revealed that around 3% of males and 2.9% of female college students used sedatives to cope with stress. However, the use of stimulants was almost twice as popular as the sedatives, where 5.8% of all the students reported using them.

Around 6.6% of male students and 5.4% of female students said that they used stimulants in the past year to deal with college stress. 15% of the students stated that work represented a huge obstacle to their academic accomplishments.

34. 9.2% of college students have been diagnosed and treated for a psychiatric condition in 2018, student stress statistics reveal.

(ACHA Report) 

In a 2018 survey, 9.2% of college students stated that they’d been diagnosed and treated for an acute or chronic mental health condition. This is not a negligible number, given that in the same year as much as 18.7% of the surveyed students reported that depression got in the way of their performance. Around 2.9% of students reported using antidepressants in the past year, with a gender ratio being 3.1% and 2% for female and male students who took antidepressants, respectively. 

35. College student stress statistics from 2019 reveal that there are 2.6% more hospitalizations than 9 years ago.

(CCMH Report)

A CCMH college and stress report from 2019, encompassing the data from 207,818 college students that were using appointments in consulting centers, shows that there is an increase in the number of hospitalizations of college students due to mental distress. In the last nine years, the increase is 2.6%. For the academic year, 2018–2019, the share of the students who were hospitalized was 9.8%.

The most frequent reason for student hospitalization was suicidality (1.2%), hostility and aggression (0.1%), and other mental health concerns (0.3%). Out of the total number of college students, 0.3% were hospitalized more than five times, and 6.7% of students were hospitalized only once.


FAQ

What percentage of college students are stressed?

There are many ways to answer the common question, “How stressed are college students?” Recent data shows that nine in 10 college students (90%) reported feeling stressed, and some 20–35% turn to college counseling services for advice. Following the latest reported data on stress, the number of students that reported feeling very sad surpassed 50%. More than half of college students also report feeling hopeless; over 60% claimed that they have been feeling very lonely, and over 80% said that their workload makes them feel overwhelmed.    

What kind of stress do college students have?

Most college students are facing acute stress during exam periods, and data shows that almost one-third of them are chronically stressed. Students and stress-related research and surveys show that students face stress in relation to their capabilities to carry their workload, time management stress, situational stress when taking exams or working on important projects, and anticipatory stress when preparing for an exam or a presentation. What’s more, relationship stress regarding other students and family members is high up the scale, with an increasing number of college students developing full-blown social anxiety.

What are the biggest stressors for college students today?

The college and stress statistics identify multiple factors that contribute to high levels of distress among college students. From high expectations of the parents, worrying about friends and relatives, dealing with culture shock if they move to another state or homesickness, to academic workload, college is not an easy period for young Americans. 

An average stressed student deals with health issues, working full-time, financial worries, and worries about entering the job market. All of these are factors that can interfere with their academic achievements. Furthermore, stressing over violence and sexual assault, social pressures, and self-identity acceptance issues can push some of the students over the limit of their mental wellbeing.

Are college students more stressed than adults?

Following the statistical data related to depression rates, suicidality, the amount of debt that college students accumulate, and the pressure they are under from the very enrollment, it is evident that college students are more anxious and stressed than the adult population. Surveys show that one in five college students seriously considered suicide, while one in ten actually attempted suicide. This rate is far worse than the adult rate of suicide attempts. 

College stress was not always in connection with the academic performance, but also with climate change and sexual harassment, which contribute to stress levels in college students, along with the economic crisis, and other subjects to which the younger generations are more sensitive.


Conclusion

There is a lot that can be done to make college life easier for students, starting with recruiting more staff members for the college counseling centers. And while it is evident that stress levels are skyrocketing, the most concerning aspect of these figures is the rise in diagnosis of anxiety and depression among students, which can lead to suicide. 

Being informed can be used as a coping measure for college stress. College can be more tolerable for young people, and these college student stress statistics can help us make this happen. 

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