Kalamazoo, MI
one-hundred-forty Years of Service to the Student

Voices

Stress: College’s Mental Health Epidemic

(Graham Key / Index)

It’s common knowledge that college students are stressed. Here at K, we like to compare our stress levels– the “Stress Olympics,” if you will. While many of us wear our high levels of stress as badges of pride, it has has several negative consequences.

Besides the obvious, very well known consequences of too much stress, such as sleep deprivation, distorted eating patterns, and a decrease in overall happiness, recent studies have shown that this increasing stress culture is creating an epidemic of mental health crises on campuses.

Diagnoses of depression and anxiety among college students have been on the rise since the 1980s: one survey done in 2013 found that 57 percent of women and 40 percent of men reported having experienced “overwhelming” anxiety in the past year, and 33 percent of women and 27 percent of men reported feeling so depressed that they couldn’t function.

More studies suggest that between a quarter and a third of students meet the criteria for anxiety or depression during their college experience.

Lifestyle habits – such as eating patterns, sexual activity, sleeping, and drinking – are also negatively impacted by stress. Sleep deprivation, disordered eating, alcohol abuse, and high risk sexual behaviors are on the rise among college students. While this could be due to a more liberal atmosphere towards sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll on college campuses, they are all becoming outlets for stress.

Can the stressful and competitive atmosphere of college contribute to this “mental health crisis?” Considering the evidence, it seems entirely possible.

There is increasing pressure on students today to succeed and distinguish themselves from their peers. At a small school like K, a place of highly accomplished individuals and where everyone knows everyone’s business, the desire to compare your achievements with those of your peers can add to an unhealthy level of stress.

And indeed, there’s the aforementioned “Stress Olympics:” students compete with one another to see who can attain the renowned title of “most stressed.” If you aren’t stressed “enough,” well, you have no reason to complain.

Stress can be managed, though, so it’s not all bad. Taking days off, having good time management skills, and always saving some time to take care of yourself can significantly reduce your stress levels.

Doing your best is always good, but how good can it be if you’re destroying yourself in the process?

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Stress: College’s Mental Health Epidemic