UCLA freshman study reveals increased student stress level, liberalism

Posted 9:45 p.m. Jan. 31

By Patrick W. Higgins

(U-WIRE) WASHINGTON – There has been an increase in the number of college students who feel depressed and who favor liberal politics according to a report released this week by the University of California at Los Angeles Higher Education Institute.

The number of college freshmen who admit to having emotional and physical health problems has reached and all-time high.

Of the 411,970 freshmen surveyed, only 55.2 percent of the students labeled their physical health to be above average, down from 56.4 percent in 2000 and 64.3 percent in 1986.

Similarly, the number of college freshmen who rated their emotional heath as above average fell a quarter of a percent this year to 53.4 percent. The decline in emotional health marks an overall 10.2 percent drop in the last 17 years.

Men have reported slightly better emotional health than women with 47.7 percent of females and 60.4 percent of males claiming above average emotional conditions.

“Many students reported feeling overwhelmed by the demands that they have,” Linda Sax of UCLA’s Higher Education Institute, the group that conducted the survey said. “I mean they are expected to get top grades, get jobs to pay for college and do volunteer work. It becomes stressful.”

The survey’s administrators cited that 97.5 percent of the responses used for these results were complied before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“I think if the survey was re-done now,” Sax said, “students would be more in tune politically, even more so than the current report indicates.”

This year’s study shows that more students than ever before are declaring their political beliefs “liberal”.

The 29.9 percent of students who consider themselves leftist, up 2.2 percent from last year, is the largest number in two decades. The number is still significantly lower than the nearly 40 percent of students that defined the category in 1971.

The number of undergraduates supporting the rights of homosexuals has reached a record high of 57.9 percent up from 56 percent last year. Less than 30 percent of the students surveyed were in favor of laws prohibiting same-sex marriages, a 20 percent decrease in the past decade.

Keeping in trend with the overall shift in the direction of liberalism, over one-third of those surveyed support the legalization of marijuana, a 2.3 percent increase in the past year and the highest percentage since 1980.

According to the survey, religion among first-year students continues to wane, with an all-time high 15.8 percent of those surveyed claiming no religious affiliation, up from 6.6 percent in 1966.

Freshmen have not only become more liberal, but have also expressed a greater interest in national politics with a 4.5 percent increase last year alone, the single largest rise since 1992. Experts speculate that this unusual surge in political interest is related to the contested 2000 presidential campaign.

The report indicates that organized demonstrations have drawn more students than ever before, with a 29.6 percent swell in the past half century.

Volunteer work is also on the rise, with 82.5 percent of the freshmen surveyed citing volunteer positions in the past year.

Women still maintain the lead over men in interracial relationships.

Seventy-one point nine percent of females and 67.6 of males surveyed stated that they have been involved in some type of social interaction with an individual of a different ethnicity or race in the past year. This is the highest percentage of students since the question was introduced in 1992.

Despite steady grade point averages, with 44.1 percent of students reporting “A” averages during their senior year of high school, the amount of individuals who study more than six hours a week has fallen to 34.9 percent, down 12.1 percent in the past decade.

Sax accounts for this unusual situation by challenging the quality of high school curriculums.

“It’s easier to get an A in high school now than it used to be,” she said.

The 36th annual survey was conducted in partnership with the American Council on Education. Since 1966, over 10 million students and 1,700 institutions have taken part in the study.

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