Why are college student’s feeling more stress and anxiety today than those a generation or two ago?


As I see more and more college age students and hear their struggles with college life I can’t help but to ask myself “What happened”gamelife-web

In my generation (OK I sound like my parents, I know) many of my high school friends couldn’t wait to leave home, start the college life, begin independence.  Sure, a few of them went off the college, enjoyed the “independent” life a little too much and dropped out.  But a large majority of them did continue, some excelled, most moved forward and finished college.  These were the driven ones.  Maybe because they were encouraged, maybe because they thought school was what they had to do, or because they just wanted to stack the odds in their favor of getting a good job.  Did everyone go to college?  No.  Why?  Because it wasn’t what they wanted to do, or they had other ideas of a career, or a host of other probably similar to those same reasons some don’t go to college today.

life-web Years ago it was simply understood that when you finished High School, if your family could afford it, you went to college. College meant that you would most likely have a decent paying career sometime in the future. If your family couldn’t afford it and you were determined, you worked, maybe took out a student loan, but you went to school.  If one didn’t feel that they wanted the whole college experience and package, they went to trade school to learn a trade.  All with the belief that you would one day have a career which would allow you to make a decent living and, hopefully, follow your dreams.  The belief then was that it just wasn’t going to happen (or at least be very difficult) if you didn’t go to school. High school was seen as the stepping block of our futures.  Carnival-Dream_2149

The point that I am trying to make here is that regardless of whether one went to college right after high school, or a little later in life, they seemed to be better prepared for life independent of their parents. Sure, mistakes were made but for a large portion of this generation, they learned from their mistakes.  They weren’t afraid to make mistakes.

So what happened to the college and university students of today?

From a recent article from Counseling Today:  “A recent survey of first-year college students reveals that a majority felt emotionally unprepared for college, while more than 1 in 3 (38 percent) felt anxious most of the time during their first term.”

  • “When asked how they felt most of the time during their first term at college, 50 percent of students chose “stressed”; 46 percent chose “happy”; 38 percent chose “anxious”; 37 percent chose “optimistic”; 34 percent chose “in control”; 25 percent chose “lonely”; and 22 percent chose “depressed.” (Students were able to select more than one adjective.)”
  • “60 percent of students agreed (either “somewhat” or “strongly”) with the statement “I wish I had more help getting emotionally ready for college.” Female respondents (66 percent) were more likely than male respondents (52 percent) to agree with the statement.
  • “45 percent of students agreed with the statement “It seems like everyone has college figured out but me.””   

Counseling Today article

Another article from Psychology Psychology Today: Student Mental Health Crisis

  • “95% of college counseling center directors surveyed said the number of students with significant psychological problems is a growing concern in their center or on campus. Seventy percent of directors believe that the number of students with severe psychological problems on their campus has increased in the past year.”
  • “Trend data clearly suggest increases in levels of stress, depression and anxiety at least since the 1980s. Consider that one study found that the average high school student in the year 2000 has the same level of anxiety as the average psychiatric patient did in the 1950s; and those rates have only increased in the last decade”


So my question is what is going on?  Please share your thoughts.



About Childs Play Counseling Services

No family is without the occasional frustration or challenge but when issues are interfering with daily activities or causing chaos within the home it may be time to look for help. Child's Play Counseling Services offers full service mental health counseling and therapy for adults, children, adolescents, and families in Covington County, Alabama. I offer therapy for a variety of issues not limited to ADHD, behavior problems, parenting issues, depression, anxiety, school problems, anger management, low self esteem, eating disorders, family issues relating to divorce and separation within the family. I have been helping children, adults and families heal, and lead healthy lives for over 15 years in a safe, confidential, and nonjudgmental environment. I can help you. Call 334-222-7094 to schedule your appointment. I am licensed in Alabama as well as Florida and in addition to being a licensed counselor, I am also licensed in both states to offer supervision for those wishing to obtain their licenses in Alabama, Florida or certification in Play Therapy. I often teach parenting classes and training and conduct workshops to other professionals in the field of mental health. The topics I present on include issues of concern for parents, as well as counseling techniques to professionals. I specialize in Play Therapy and am always happy to conduct workshops to other professionals on the benefits of play therapy. If you would like me speak at your event or offer a workshop in your area, please contact me and we can set something up.
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One Response to Why are college student’s feeling more stress and anxiety today than those a generation or two ago?

  1. Pingback: What is anxiety? | Child's Play Counseling Services for adults, adolescents and children

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