As with people of all ages, college students may find happiness and emotional wellbeing challenging to attain and (especially) maintain. While the experience of going to college always includes some level of anxiety and stress, for many students, those levels have reached new heights in recent years.
The coronavirus pandemic drives much of this distress, which led to extended periods of isolation, stress, sadness, and depression for many people–college students included. Writing for the Brookings Institute, psychologist Marty Swanbrow Becker warned: “New research identifies young adults as the most vulnerable group for anxiety and depression during the pandemic. Indeed, we find ourselves amid a student mental-health crisis.”
Becker and other experts quickly point out that stress and anxiety levels already were on the rise before the pandemic, impacting mental health in college students and even the way their brain functions.
What Causes Mental and Emotional Health Issues?
Mental health and emotional wellbeing are complex issues for anyone. Perhaps even more so for younger college students taking their first steps toward independence and finding their place in the world. Working adults face their own issues, such as balancing work, life, and school.
Some modern issues impact both groups. Social media sites such as Instagram and Facebook, for example, offer continuous opportunities to ignore the sage advice of not comparing yourself to others. Also, many students now view college more as a stepping stone to making money rather than an opportunity to expand their minds and widen their worldview.
In an interview with the New York Times, cognitive scientist Laurie Santos, who teaches a course on happiness at Yale University, said, “I’ll have conversations with first-year students on campus who will ask what fourth class they should take to make sure they get that job at Google by the time they’re 24.” She suggests that part of the issue is parents today “push children to be thinking about this stuff” from a young age.
However, most factors that impact mental health in college students are longstanding. And no two students have the same set of stressors. They come from a variety of sources.
- Financial problems
- Job insecurity and burnout
- Problems with personal relationships, including those with family members, intimate partners, and co-workers
- The demands of parenting
- Feeling overwhelmed and also behind with a day-to-day schedule
- Personality types – introverts or perfectionists might feel more stress than others
Issues most often related to physical health can also impact mental health in college students, including diet, exercise, and the lack of certain activities, such as mediation, that can help them better cope with stress and anxiety.
Nontraditional College Students Show Mental Health Resilience
A recent study published in Adult Education Quarterly looked at the impact of the pandemic on the mental health of college students. It found that both traditional on-campus students and nontraditional online students reported higher levels of depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, and insomnia.
However, the nontraditional group of online students, even though they reported more stressors than their traditional peers, also demonstrated higher levels of resistance to stress.
“Nontraditional students appear to be more successful at managing stressful life events due to the increased resilience that comes with age and experience, which can better prepare them to persevere and overcome challenges,” the researchers wrote.
They note that past studies show that adult students do not depend as much on emotional and social support as traditional students. They often perform better with fewer sources of support when compared to traditional students. The researchers wrote that because of this, “social isolation from peers, professors, and colleagues may influence their mental health less than with traditional students.”
How TUW Supports Mental and Emotional Health for Students
TUW assigns every student a personal advisor that helps them navigate the online education process; this can range from ensuring they have the proper technology to choosing the courses needed to complete their degree in a timely manner. These services can help relieve people’s stress and anxiety when they enroll in an online program.
Advisors also can direct students to the appropriate mental health services. The university provides students with a list of national and international mental health and crisis resources and the methods to contact them. This same list also includes a link to apps that can help students with cognitive distortions, mindfulness, stress management, anxiety, and more.
Touro University Worldwide is committed to promoting good mental health in college students while also supporting their academic goals. Ensuring they have access to resources that foster better mental and emotional health is part of that commitment.