Linda DeAngelo

The emotional health of first-year college students has reached an all-time low while stress levels have increased significantly, according to a survey published by the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles. The study, which has been published annually for the past 45 years, surveys first-year students at nearly 300 institutions across the nation. UT did not participate in the survey last year, but the University has in the past. Students take the survey either during their freshman orientation or during the first few weeks of class. This year’s survey revealed that 51.9 percent of 1.5 million students reported that their emotional health was in the ‘highest 10 percent’ or ‘above average.’ This number has declined 3.4 percent — from 55.3 percent — since 2009, according to the survey’s press release. “I think students have a lot of pressure coming in,” said Linda DeAngelo, assistant director for research at the Higher Education Research Institute. “They have high expectations for college.” Female students are more likely to report lower levels of emotional health than male students, according to the report. “Men are more likely to engage in stress-relieving activities, such as playing sports,” DeAngelo said. “Women may also just be more in touch with how they feel or how they should feel than men.” Another reason for the decrease in high emotional health is the economy and the stress of paying for college, DeAngelo said. “[College is] tough on students in terms of looking ahead, paying off loans, [finding] jobs,” said Jane Morgan Bost, associate director of UT’s Counseling and Mental Health Center. Another potential reason for this increase is the higher incidence of mental illness among 18-25 year olds, Bost said. That age range is the most common time for a first psychotic episode to emerge in an individual, she said. In general, the frequency of students of any age who are in need of counseling has increased, Bost said. “We have definitely noticed an increase in students who say that they are in crisis,” Bost said. Although the number of students who consider themselves to have high emotional health has decreased this year, there are several ways to prevent stress from building to dangerous levels. “[Students] should make sure that they are engaging in activities that will help them reduce stress, such as playing sports or exercising,” DeAngelo said. “[Another thing] is not to worry about the future but to focus on the job at hand, which is doing well in school and finding what their passions are.”