Going to college is a long awaited next step for many high school graduates. While these years should be filled with the excitement of exploring independence, building new relationships, and soaking in all college has to offer, for many it is more stressful than joyful. College student stress facts bear this out.
One of the most consistent college student stress facts is that anxiety is the biggest mental health issue for college students. While stress doesn’t always develop into more general anxiety issues, the American Institute of Stress calls stress an epidemic among college students.
Pre-pandemic, 63% of students in the US reported overwhelming anxiety in the past year (2018). 23% of those were diagnosed or treated by a mental health professional during that same time. Since March of 2020, these college student stress facts and the percentage of anxiety related issues have only increased.
Stress issues often start before a prospective student even reaches campus because college acceptance has become increasingly competitive. In 2018, 4% more students applied than the previous year and only 65.4% were accepted. Incoming students begin their college years carrying the stress of the rigorous admissions process and their diligent attention to academics, extracurriculars, and other efforts to bolster their application.
Here are some additional college student stress facts.
- It’s common. 8 in 10 college students report high levels of stress. Strikingly, the students who struggle outnumber those who don’t. About 30% of students on campus who seek mental health treatment report stress being the cause, while 60% report more severe levels of anxiety.
- Homesickness causes stress. About 69% of first year students experience severe homesickness and over 30% of all students struggle at least mildly with being away from home. The stress of life apart from familiar family and friends is a common college student stress fact.
- Financial stress is a major stressor. At Ohio State University, 70% of students acknowledged feeling stressed about their finances and 60% worried about having enough to pay for school. Finances are an issue for almost every college student, with many working part-time jobs to make ends meet.
- Social adjustment. While building new relationships are one of the best parts of the college student experience it can also be one of the biggest causes of stress. Learning to build strong relationships while socially distancing has made this more difficult. Poor social wellbeing accounts for higher levels of stress.
- COVID has escalated stress. 44% of students are worried about their ability to enroll in college or stay in college. 81% of students agree or strongly agree they are experiencing stress. Combined with other adaptations COVID has forced, college students are more stressed than ever.
- Stress is a top 3 issue. Along with anxiety and depression, stress is one of the top three mental health issues for college students. It can sometimes be difficult to specifically diagnose one over the other since they often co-exist.
- Physical safety is a concern. 21.3% of females reported being victims of sexual assault on campus and 25% said they had unwanted sexual contact or experience with another student. 64% reported being or seeing bullying of some kind on campus.
The college student stress facts described here represent a sampling of the challenges that account for the rising stress levels in college students. Universities will need to continue to provide support services for students who are struggling with stress and anxiety.