Survey: College Freshmen More Depressed than Ever

National survey says incoming college freshmen more depressed than ever.

By Kathryn Knight Randolph

February 11, 2015

Survey: College Freshmen More Depressed than Ever Survey: College Freshmen More Depressed than Ever

A recent survey from the Cooperative Institutional Research Program at UCLA has college students, parents and administrators alike dropping their jaws in shock. The National Norms survey, which has been conducted for decades now, revealed that college freshmen are more depressed than ever upon entering college.

What’s more, the survey revealed some startling statistics on social interactions between high school seniors heading to college.

Socializing

Socializing in high school isn’t what it used to be. Only 18% of incoming freshmen reported spending at least 16 hours a week socializing with friends, according to the National Norms survey. Just to give you some perspective – that figure was 37.9% in 1987.

They are, however, socializing via social media. The number of students spending six hours or more per week on social media increased from 18.9% to 27.2% since 2007. But despite this increase, surveyed students indicated that a campus with an engaging social culture was vital to determining their college choice.

Drinking

Though students may be spending less time socializing face-to-face, their drinking and tobacco use is on the decline as well. In 1981, 74.2% of the National Norms survey respondents stated that they either occasionally or frequently drink beer. By 2014, that number had dropped to 33.5%, and tobacco use to just 1.7%.

However, the National Norms research cited the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) findings that most students still explore alcohol for the first time in college. They state, “The NIAAA reported in 2012 that 60.3% of college students ages 18–22 drank alcohol in the past month, and 40.1% of students indicated binge drinking during that same period.”

Emotional Health

Finally, the National Norms survey found that self-rated emotional health had dropped to its lowest point ever – 50.7%, and the percentage of students who frequently felt depressed rose to 9.5%.

Emotional health concerns can have a severe impact on a student’s collegiate experience, according to the National Norms study. Students that are depressed are more likely to show up late, be bored or fall asleep in class. They are also, overall, less satisfied with their entire college experience and struggle to find a sense of belonging on campus.

As administrators, parents and students identify ways to respond to this staggering new data, incoming freshmen should be aware of campus resources that are at their disposal. For instance, every college campus offers counseling at no extra costs to students. In fact, this is included in their student fees. Students with emotional health concerns should seek help from this confidential, already-paid-for resource.

Additionally, students can take matters into their own hands – or out of their own hands. Don’t spend so much time on smartphones and tablets. Grab coffee with peers from your class or dorm. Keep alcohol and tobacco use to a minimum. Get involved with others on campus, whether that’s through a fraternity or sorority, community service group or special interest organization.

Essentially, engage. Engage with your peers, with your campus and with counselors whenever you need help.

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