A nationwide study found that mental health issues among college freshmen are at the highest level they’ve been in 25 years, a finding which the director of the University Counseling Center said is in line with the increased number of UCC visits among all students.
The University of California, Los Angeles survey found a 12 percent drop since 1985 in the number of freshman students who rated their emotional health as “above average.” It also represents a 3.4 percentage point drop since last year.
The survey sampled 200,000 freshmen at colleges across the country.
UCC Director Dr. John Dages said the number of students seeking counseling for depression is on the rise, but said that doesn’t necessarily mean there is an increase in depression cases. He said the increase could be due to greater awareness of counseling options.
Dages said UCC visits from students have increased 20 percent this year, but added that visits from freshmen specifically have not increased over the last year.
He attributed the decline in emotional health to a potential increase in stress levels. Seventy-five percent of freshmen surveyed said they feel an above-average drive to succeed prompting higher levels of stress.
“Freshmen may have additional stress due to adjustment-related issues, such as moving away from home, making new friends, managing roommate conflict and feeling more pressure to succeed than in the past,” Dages said.
Dages said the UCC has been increasing its outreach efforts to make students aware of the resources available to them on campus.
Freshmen interviewed said they have felt stress since coming to college.
“I am stressed,” said freshman Catherine Blauch. “My work load is heavier. Unlike in high school, I have to get my work done more on my time. There is more competition now.”
Other freshmen cited economic woes as added stressors, according to the study, with the promise of a tough job market looming after graduation.
The survey found that freshmen reported feeling heightened stress levels even back in high school. Twenty-nine percent of students said they felt overwhelmed during their senior years, a 2 percent increase from a year ago.