Mental health and well-being are vital for people of all ages to lead happy, healthy, and productive lives. Mental health problems can have a number of negative effects on everyone – especially young people.
In fact, the majority of college students belong to the age group most likely to develop the first symptoms of mental illness. Unfortunately, we’re witnessing mental health problems in college students on the rise.
The current generation of young adults is more likely to be affected by mental illness than previous generations of young adults. The college student mental health statistics we’ve curated at Mark in Style show just how serious the issue is.
Let’s dive right in.
Eye-opening Mental Health of College Students Stats (Editor’s Choice)
- Over one-third of first-year college students report mental health issues.
- 80% of students feel stressed on a daily basis.
- 9% of students have contemplated suicide in the last year. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among students.
- Over 58% of students seek help with anxiety.
- 75% of students who suffer from depression don’t seek help.
- 35% of female and 10% of male college athletes are at risk of anorexia nervosa.
- Half of all mental health illnesses begin by the age of 14.
Mental Health in College Students
Mental distress refers to cases where a person reports mental health problems that have not been the subject of clinical investigation.
Let’s see how prevalent it is:
1. 39% of college students experience significant mental health issues.
(Active Minds, NAMI, IPPR)
Mental illnesses in college students are increasingly being addressed, so it’s important that students and family members are familiar with these issues.
Here’s how it works:
When suffering from a mental illness, a person experiences the symptoms of one or more clinically diagnosable mental health conditions. These states can range from severe and persistent to more common conditions such as depression and anxiety.
A person with a mental illness may or may not have received a diagnosis, and may or may not seek or receive treatment.
2. 80% of students report that they feel stress on a daily basis.
In addition to being away from their family and childhood friends, students have to master challenging new subjects in class. This can be especially difficult if they’re studying abroad.
And then there’s the partying. Let’s face it:
Many students spend much more time on social and recreational activities than on educational tasks. They try to ease the pressure but eventually fall behind and feel even more exam stressed when they’re desperately trying to improve their poor grades.
And that’s not all:
3. One-third of first-year college students report mental health issues.
The college student mental health statistics for 2019 are quite alarming.
You might be wondering:
“What percent of college students have a mental illness?”
As it turns out:About one in three first-year university students said they had suffered from mental disorders. Click To Tweet
This is the case for students in the UK and eight other developed countries around the world.
4. Half of all mental health illnesses begin by the age of 14.
Stigma and misunderstandings often occur at an early age and leave many youngsters in need of treatment. In turn, this can lead to lifelong setbacks and challenges that could be avoided.
It doesn’t have to be that way:
Problems like depression and anxiety can be treated like any other disease. Unfortunately, a growing number of people still suffer in silence, and many are unaware of the clinical nature of their disease.
It’s vital to raise awareness and increase funding, with a focus on school programmes to ensure that those affected receive treatment as early as possible. There’s an urgent need for healthcare providers to promote early intervention by increasing awareness and diagnostic mechanisms.
The next stat drives the point home:
5. 75% of all lifetime mental illnesses begin by the age of 24.
(Best Colleges, NAMI)
Mental health problems in college students are on the rise. The biggest challenges for students are depression, anxiety, addiction, suicide, and eating disorders.
Mental healthcare, therapy, medication, and self-care have helped many of them recover. Unfortunately, the average delay between the onset of symptoms and treatment is 11 years.
6. 9% of students have contemplated suicide in the last year. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among students.
(NIMH, CDC, NCBI, SAMHSA)
Suicide rates of college students are really worrying. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among people aged 10-34 around the world.
Suicide is the tenth most common cause of death worldwide.
About 46% of people who die by suicide had been diagnosed with a certain mental health condition. 90% of people who die by suicide had shown symptoms of mental illness according to interviews with family, friends, and medical staff.
Of all those, about 11% of young adults aged 18-25 had serious suicidal thoughts. The rates of suicidal thinking, severe depression, and self-injury among students doubled between 2007 and 2018.
Depression among college students is becoming more common, and the demand for counselling among college students has increased dramatically.
Which brings us to the next disturbing topic:
Anxiety in College Students
7. 61% of students said they had ‘felt overwhelming anxiety’.
(ACHA, TIME, AIS)
College student mental health statistics show mental health problems are on the rise.
As a result:The number of students seeking psychiatric treatment on campus is growing rapidly, and counselling services face unprecedented demand for appropriate treatment. Click To Tweet
The types of anxiety disorders include (but are not limited to) generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder), and social anxiety disorder (SAD).
8. 13% of students have been diagnosed with a mental condition linked to anxiety.
Anxiety and depression are often linked. So, someone with an anxiety disorder may also suffer from depression or vice versa.
Depression in college students statistics show that almost half of the people who are diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Anxiety disorders often occur together with other disorders such as eating disorders and attention deficit hyperactivity disorders (ADHD).
9. Rates of moderate to severe anxiety rose from 17.9% in 2013 to 34.4% in 2018.
Anxiety in college students develops from a complex set of stressors, including genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events.
Let’s face it:
A low level of stress and anxiety is a part of most people’s lives, and triggering these feelings does not necessarily mean you have an anxiety disorder.
However, when anxiety interferes with daily life and functioning, causing an immense amount of stress, an anxiety disorder can develop.
10. 38% of directors whose centres offer psychiatric services reported that they need more hours of psychiatric services than they currently have to meet student needs.
According to the latest college student mental health statistics, 47% of directors said their university campuses offer psychiatric services. The average waiting time for all students for a first appointment is six working days.
About 66% of the centres had no waiting list. For those that have a waiting list, the average waiting time for a first appointment for patients on the waiting list is about 18 working days.
11. Over 58% of students seek help with anxiety.
The following figures help us understand how many college students are affected by anxiety.
Anxiety remains the most common concern among college counselling centre patients, followed by:
- Depression – 48%
- Stress – 47%
- Specific relationship problems – 29%
- Family concerns – 29%
- Suicidal thoughts – 28%
- Academic performance difficulties – 28%
- Sleep disorders – 19%
- Social isolation/ loneliness – 18%
- A significant history of mental health treatment – 16%
- Adaptation to a new environment – 16%
12. 66% of students said counselling services helped with their academic performance.
Measured by students’ self-reports, counselling services have a positive influence on academics.
Counselling services have a positive influence on retention, with 63% of students stating they helped them to stay in school. Understanding the connection between mental health and academic success is crucial in order to fully appreciate the importance of mental health in college students.
Depression in College Students Statistics
Depression is a medical condition caused by imbalances in brain chemistry. It can affect our ability to work, study, interact with others, or take care of ourselves.
Other stressors can be poor nutrition, physical illness, personal loss and difficulties in school or relationships.
Let’s see what the stats have to say about depression on university campuses:
13. Over 41% of students said they felt so depressed they had difficulty functioning.
(ACHA, The Conversation)
Students have a very high risk of depression, as college depression statistics clearly show. Some of the reasons for this alarming situation include financial stress, parental overreliance, and excessive use of alcohol and drugs, among others.
While technology can be a source of depression, it can also be used to treat it. In other words, technology can be used to bring a mental health professional to the students, wherever they are.
14. 75% of students who suffer from depression do not seek help.
(College Stats, ADAA)
College students depression statistics show 13% of students felt depressed at some point in the past three months.
The stigma associated with mental illness can be a significant barrier to accessing treatment. Some students may not seek help because of confidentiality and financial concerns.
15. Over 18% of college students have been diagnosed or treated by a professional for depression.
(ACHA, New York Times)
College students are experiencing money problems. They are very uncertain about their career prospects and feel under pressure to perform academically or risk losing employment opportunities.
So, it should come as no surprise that depression and anxiety are the predominant issues in the UK.
During their studies, students have many first experiences, including a new lifestyle, friends, roommates, and exposure to a new culture. If they’re not prepared, they can easily become prone to depression and anxiety.
That’s the reason why nearly two in ten students have been diagnosed or treated by a mental health professional.
16. The rate of moderate to severe depression rose from 23.2% in 2007 to 41.1% in 2018.
A nationwide study reveals severe depression among US college students is almost double what it was a decade ago.
Two major annual surveys of college students conducted between 2007-2018 also suggest that mental health indicators, including depression, anxiety, and suicide planning, are on the rise.
Mental health and college students are increasingly the subjects of discussions and research to gain an understanding of the problems and their prevention.
17. In 2018, an estimated 4.6 million young adults aged 18-25 (13.8%) stated they had had a major depressive episode (MDE) the previous year.
Some of the conditions were having an MDE lasting at least two weeks in the past year during which they experienced a depressed mood or loss of interest or enjoyment of daily activities, accompanied by problems with sleep, eating, energy, concentration, or self-esteem.
The results of the study were the following:
The percentage of young adults with an MDE was higher in 2018 than in 2005-2016 but similar to 2017. Additionally, about three million young adults aged 18-25 years (8.9%) had a severe MDE in 2018.
College Student Health Statistics: Eating Disorders
18. Anorexia is the third most common chronic illness in teens and young adults.
At any given point in time, between 0.3-0.4% of young women and 0.1% of young men will suffer from anorexia nervosa. Young people between the ages of 15 and 24 with anorexia at a ten times higher risk of dying compared to their same-aged peers.
19. 95% of those with eating disorders are students at the age of 12-25.
In college, students may develop irrational emotions about food and weight. It’s also easy to skip meals.
The thing is:
At this age, students are still growing. And since they don’t feel very confident, they’re likely to develop eating disorders. Of course, few will admit to having them.
As a result, most of them don’t seek help and refuse to recognise the problem. Unfortunately, eating disorders can lead to life-threatening problems if ignored.
Although colleges have made progress in providing mental health services and treatment for students, the results suggest that the current campus resources are not sufficient.
It gets worse:
20. 83% replied ‘no’ when questioned if their college campuses had eating disorder resources.
Prevention efforts that reduce negative risk factors (body dissatisfaction, depression, or self-esteem) are effective strategies to reduce the rate of eating disorders. A recent NEDA survey on Instagram highlighted the need for prevention programmes.
Such prevention and intervention efforts, aimed at increasing body acceptance, can both reduce the symptoms of eating disorders and help create an environment that promotes healthy recovery.
The college student mental health statistics on the subject are clear:
Creating awareness of eating disorders is essential!
21. From 1999 to 2009, hospitalisation involving eating disorders for male patients increased by 53%.
(Eating Disorder Help)
Young men may encounter a variety of problems during their studies that affect their weight and body image.
While it’s generally assumed that low self-esteem and concerns about body image are problems that only women face, studies have shown that this is not the case.
In fact, men are almost as likely to develop eating disorders.
They don’t seek help because anorexia and bulimia are often seen as a woman’s thing. So, they’re usually embarrassed to tell others about these disorders.
22. 35% of female and 10% of male college athletes are at risk for anorexia nervosa, and 58% of female and 38% of male college athletes are at risk for bulimia nervosa.
The prevalence of eating disorders among college athletes is higher among dancers and most elite college athletes, especially those who practise sports where a slim figure or weight restriction is a priority (i.e., figure skating, wrestling, rowing).
Mental Health in College Students in the UK
23. About three-quarters of adults with mental illness show their first symptoms before the age of 25.
College students’ health issues and low levels of well-being on UK university campuses are on the increase and are higher compared to other population groups.
With increased access to higher education, the student population better reflects the wider socio-economic and demographic composition of the UK.
As a result, a growing proportion of students appear to be affected by mental illness. Over the last decade, the number of students reporting mental illness to their institution has increased fivefold.
24. The number of students seeking mental health support has also risen – by 50 % between 2012 and 2017.
Five times as many students report mental health conditions to their institution today compared to ten years ago in the UK. The increase in mental illness among students reflects a broader social trend.
Long-term mental health problems among children and young people have increased six-fold in England since 1995. In Scotland, they have more than doubled between 2003 and 2014.
Studies have examined the effects of social media or sleep deprivation, as well as the effects of an insecure labour market, personal debt, or limited public services. As a result, suicide is the leading cause of death for people aged 20-34 in England and Wales.
25. One-third of UK 18-year-olds entered higher education courses in 2018.
The college mental health statistics 2018 show that the majority of people who develop a mental health condition will experience their first symptoms by the age of 24. So, a considerable number of young Brits will be at university during or shortly after the onset of mental illness.
Intervening at this stage will bring an incredible public health benefit. New initiatives can be tried out and compared in a comparatively short time. This makes universities a good place to try to approach mental health differently. It enables the generation of knowledge and better prevention-oriented strategies.
26. A record number of students in England and Wales died by suicide in 2015. Between 2007 and 2015, the number of student suicides increased by 79% (from 75 to 134).
Where there is a lack of support and treatment, poor mental health can lead to an increased risk of dropping out of studies or, in the most serious and tragic cases, to suicide.
Suicide is generally often associated with the presence of mental illness. Unfortunately, only 25% of people who die by suicide in the UK have been in contact with mental health services in the year before their death.
In 2014/15, a record number of students with mental health problems dropped out of university. Hence, dropout of college depression also occurs, and this vicious circle continues.
27. 94% of higher education providers in the UK report an increasing demand for guidance services.
Higher education providers have seen a significant increase in demand for guidance and disability services over the last five years. In some higher education institutions, up to one in four students use or are waiting to use guidance services.
28. 29% of higher education providers in the UK have an explicit strategy for mental health and well-being.
There are differences in the way higher education providers design their strategic response to student mental health and well-being. A number of prevention and promotion activities are widespread throughout the higher education sector.
University management leadership is the most important factor in improving student mental health and well-being. Course content that contributes to the improvement of students’ mental health and well-being and student medical practices on-site can also play a positive role.
Unfortunately, 67% of students don’t have access to National Health Service (NHS) mental health specialists who can carry out interventions onsite. Additionally, 23% of universities don’t work closely with NHS secondary mental health services.
29. Female students are significantly more likely than male students to disclose a mental health condition to their higher education institution. 39% of university students experience a significant mental health issue.
Statistics about college students show that female students are much more likely to report a mental health condition than male students. In the 2006/07 academic year, first-year male and female students were equally likely to report a state of mental health (0.5%).
Over the next ten years, both male and female student’s statistics increased.
However, in the 2015/16 academic year, 2.5% of female students had a mental health condition, compared to 1.4% of male students. While male students are three times more likely to disclose a mental health condition than a decade ago, female students are five times more likely to disclose a mental health condition.
Still have unanswered questions? Read on.
People Also Ask
What are the major health issues that college students face?
The most common psychological problems faced by students are stress, anxiety, depression, alcohol and drug abuse, sleep disorders, and sexually transmitted diseases. The most common health problems reported by college students in the US include sinus infections, sore throats, migraines and urinary tract infections.
Eating disorders and weight gain are fairly common among college students. In 2018, 1.3% of students were diagnosed with bulimia and 1.7% with anorexia. Mental illness and suffering are the most common health problems students face.
Like physical health, mental health is something that everyone experiences constantly. It can be positive or negative over time. By understanding mental health in this way, we can assess the possibility that it can change.
What causes mental illness in college students?
All kinds of factors can trigger mental disorders. Causes of mental illness in college students include combinations of poor diet, physical illness, personal loss, relationship difficulties, parental overreliance, excessive use of social media, drug use, to name but a few.
Other factors include academic demands, pressure to achieve a quality degree, and social and financial pressures that can lead to academic failure and dropping out of college.
How healthy are college students?
In fall 2018, around 36% of the students rated their state of health as very good, while only 17% described their state of health as poor. Stress and depression in college students not only affects physical health but can also affect the mental health of students.
Mental health clinicians at colleges have stated that anxiety, depression, relationship problems, and stress are the main problems of their college students.
By 2018, about 41.2% of students had visited a mental health counsellor, therapist, or psychologist, and about 24% of students who received mental health treatment took prescription drugs for their mental health problems.
And on that note:
There is a lot of data on the prevalence of mental illness among students. College student mental health statistics provide an approximate measure of the number of mental illnesses among the student population.
As we can see within the college student health statistics 2019, mental health plays an important role in their overall well-being.
The main purpose of raising awareness of mental health issues is to ensure that students have access to the necessary support. Higher education institutions need to take this into account in order to improve their strategies for promoting student well-being.