January 28, 2011

Stress Increasing Among Incoming College Freshmen

Emotional health levels are dipping to record levels while stress levels are on the rise amongst new college students, according to the results of UCLA's annual Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP) Freshman Survey, which was published Thursday.

According to the study, just 51.9% of the 200,000-plus incoming freshmen polled reported having emotional health levels that were "above average" or in the "highest 10 percent" prior to the 2010 school year.

That was a 3.4% decrease from 2009 and a "significant decline from the 63.6 percent who placed themselves in those categories when self-ratings of emotional health were first measured in 1985," according to a press release from the Los Angeles-based university.

Furthermore, according to AFP reports, "Female freshmen were more likely than their male peers to report feeling stressed. The UCLA researchers said just under 46 percent of females ranked their emotional health as very good, compared to 59 percent of males."

"Women were more than twice as likely to frequently feel 'overwhelmed by all I had to do' as high school seniors preparing for their first year of university," the news agency added.

"Stress is a major concern when dealing with college students," lead author and CIRP Director John H. Pryor said in a statement. "If students are arriving in college already overwhelmed and with lower reserves of emotional health, faculty, deans and administrators should expect to see more consequences of stress, such as higher levels of poor judgment around time management, alcohol consumption and academic motivation."

Economic factors remained one of the leading causes of that emotional distress. According to the UCLA study, 53.1% of incoming freshmen were using loans to help cover college costs, while the percentage of pupils receiving grants or scholarships hit a 10-year high at 73.4%. Meanwhile, 4.9% of students reporting having unemployed fathers--an all-time high--while 8.6% had unemployed mothers.

The report also discovered that more students than ever before (72.7%) considered the primary value of a collegiate degree the fact that it can increase a person's earning potential. Likewise, record numbers of students rated their academic abilities (71.2%) and their drive to achieve (75.8%) as "above average" or in the "highest 10 percent."

According to the university press release, paraphrasing Pryor, while those are "often considered positive traits, high levels of drive to achieve and academic ability could also contribute to students' feelings of stress" and thus could be contributing to the decrease of freshmen emotional wellbeing.


On the Net:

  • UCLA
  • To view a summary or to order a copy of the monograph "The American Freshman: National Norms Fall 2010" (J.H. Pryor, S. Hurtado, L. DeAngelo, L. Palucki Blake and S. Tran), visit www.heri.ucla.edu.