It appears that the more money college students borrow, the more likely they are to suffer mental illness while in school and also later in life.
Researchers at the University of South Carolina found that students are increasingly stressed out by tuition fees and loans. And, as a result, their mental health deteriorates.
Furthermore, the study found students with larger amounts of debt were more likely to have depression, anxiety and stress.
This rise in mental health issues seems to stem from the huge university price hikes of recent years.
In this article, we look at student mental health and how university price hikes can affect it. Here are some of things affecting students today because of their high student loan rates.
Depression rates on college campuses are rising, and it is the number one reason students drop out of school. Often, this depression is caused by their high tuition rates and the ensuing load of student loan debt.
If untreated, this depression can cause a host of problems in life including suicide.
Depression makes students feel alone, despondent, helpless and detached from the world. They often suffer from work, study, sleep and eating problems.
While new college students are told that these are the best four years of their lives, if they are carrying the burden of high tuition rates and loans, they certainly don’t feel like college is the best time of their lives.
Another problem affecting student mental health is anxiety, and who wouldn’t feel anxious at the thought of leaving the university with $100,000 in debt.
Anxiety can affect students causing a disruption in their daily life, halting their ability to function and increasing stress levels to exponential levels.
One of the most common ways college students deal with stress and anxiety is through drugs and alcohol.
Feeling overwhelmed by their after-school jobs, their course load and their impending student loan due date, many students look for something to assuage their fears.
Addiction leads to huge mental health problems on today’s university campuses.
It’s worth noting that these issues vary among different income populations. Now, let’s look at the link between student mental health and university price hikes in varying income ranges.
Student Loan Debt and Psychological Function
A Northwestern University study found that higher levels of relative debt were more problematic and caused higher stress levels, depression and poorer general health. They found this was related to household assets.
They reported high blood pressure and an increased risk of hypertension and stroke. They found that a higher relative debt had a distinct correlation to poor mental health.
Yet, they also found some cases where higher absolute debt led to some students feeling better. Why? They estimate that certain debt can sometimes give people the jump start they need to reach for a higher socioeconomic status so they pay off their debt faster.
The study suggests that students from poor backgrounds and higher cumulative level student loan debt may be less stressed because they are on the road to improved social standing. They also suggest poorer students who make it to college have the necessary personality traits that make it easier to deal with the stress of student loans.
In other words, students with disadvantages earlier in life may have less stress than those who don’t. It’s the old adage, “adversity makes us stronger.”
College Mental Health Crisis
Many experts agree that there is a mental health crisis on college campuses today. The best thing today’s universities can do is increase awareness of the available help options and reduce the stigma attached to mental illness.
Here are a few things schools can do to help their students succeed and manage their student loan debt with less stress and mental health issues. They should make sure students are aware of the following:
• Let them know that mental health issues are prevalent in college. They are common, and students are not alone. Nearly all students suffer at one time or another.
• Students are at increased risk during college due to financial stress, course load, partying and other issues.
• Everyone has problems. You can bet there are others suffering from your same problems.
• Stress and life challenges can affect you, and sometimes you just need a little help to solve them.
• Lots of people are getting help. They just aren’t broadcasting it.
• Getting help is a good thing, not a bad one.
• Mental health problems are just as real as a virus or the flu.
• Your mental health is important to your ongoing academic success and your overall health.
• Support your friends. Don’t ostracize them.
• Learn how to avoid the stigma of mental illness and learn how to be a friend to a depression or anxiety sufferer. Be empathetic.
• Know the signs and symptoms of mental illness. Recognize it in your friends so you can direct them to help if they need it. Watch for sleep patterns, changes in eating habits, binge drinking, social withdrawal and grade slippage.
• There is nothing wrong with people suffering from mental health issues. They have no reason to feel ashamed or embarrassed.
• Mental illness is not a character flaw or weakness. It doesn’t define a person. Students can overcome it and live a happy life.
• Mental health problems are treatable. Help is available, and it’s okay to seek it. Don’t wait.
All of this may suggest that carrying student loan debt isn’t worth the mental health issues, but that just isn’t true.
Yes, college is increasingly more expensive year to year. Yes, the rate of student loans is rising.
But, college is still one of the best investments students can make for their future.
Higher levels of education often lead to better jobs. In the long run, better jobs may lead to better mental and physical health.
In the intermediate time period between college and the dream job, universities must continue to provide mental health counseling as well as financial planning counseling.
What do you think about the student mental health problems facing kids in college today? Are the university price hikes to blame? What’s the answer? Please share your comments below.