Statistics on College Student Stress

Updated March 23, 2018
Stressed student preparing for exam

In college students, stress can contribute to compromised mental health, unrealized potential, and in extreme cases, loss of life. The statistics obtained through various surveys highlight the problem of college student stress and the various issues students experience because of the highly stressful environment in colleges and universities.

Data on Stress in College Students

Stress is a major problem for college students throughout the United States. Stress can lead to many issues with emotional and physical health and can be brought on by a number of causes. One of the most frightening consequences of college student stress is suicide.

General Facts and Trends

The statistics surrounding stress among college students are alarming.

  • Edison Media Research conducted a survey in 2008 on college student stress at many schools throughout the United States. The survey found that four out of 10 college students report they feel stressed often. One out of five say they feel stressed most of the time. One out of four students report experiencing daily stress and 9 percent report thoughts of suicide.
  • The American Freshman National Norms at UCLA report that Fall 2010 was revealing in terms of trends in college student attitudes, health, and stressors. Looking at the trends in the last 25 years, students' perception about their own mental health has been on a steady decline. In 2010, males' and females' perception about their own emotional health hit the lowest marks in 25 years, decreasing approximately by 13 percent from 2009 to 2010.
  • Between 1,100 and 1,400 college students commit suicide each year.

Academic Performance

Stress can have a profoundly adverse effect on student performance in the classroom.

  • In the mtvU Associated Press survey for 2009, more than half of students (60 percent) reported that severe stress interfered with their ability to complete their schoolwork more often than once. This statistic reflects an increase from 2008.
  • The Spring 2013 edition of the National College Health Assessment, where the average age of those surveyed was 21 years, reported that almost half (46.3 percent) of all undergraduate students felt overwhelmed regarding their academic responsibilities. Almost half of students surveyed reported that they have more than average or extreme stress.
  • According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, about 30 percent of college students report that stress has negatively impacted their academics.

Symptoms of Stress

To address the challenges associated with stress, you must first be able to recognize the symptoms.

  • The National Institute of Mental Health cited that almost one third (30 percent) of college students experienced profound depression that interfered with their daily activities. Moreover, students can confuse stress with the signs of depression.
  • Only 11 percent of students feel well rested. Insufficient sleep can be a symptom of stress and impact the ability to cope with stress in a healthy way.
  • Other symptoms of stress include headaches, difficulty concentrating, constant worrying, muscle aches, heartburn, indigestion, restlessness and feeling overwhelmed. About 20 percent of college students report feeling stressed most of the time.

Stress and Mental Health

In addition to physical symptoms, stress can have a dramatic impact on mental health as well.

  • The stressful college environment can often compound or exacerbate pre-existing mental health issues. The National Alliance on Mental Illness's survey, College Students Speak: A Survey Report On Mental Health, revealed that almost two-thirds (64 percent) of the students who drop out of college do so for mental health reasons.
  • Stressed female college student
    Depression, anxiety disorders, and suicidal thoughts can be interrelated. High levels of stress can be a precursor to anxiety and depressive disorders. Of the suicides committed in college, 95 percent were related to anxiety and depression disorders.
  • In 2005, the National College Health Assessment (NCHA) surveyed around 50,000 college students. Fifteen percent of the female students and 12 percent of male students reported they have felt so depressed that it was difficult to function over the past school year. Eleven percent of female students and 9 percent of male students reported that they seriously considered suicide.

Coping Strategies

To help college students manage stress, several strategies and tactics have been suggested over the years.

  • An American Journal of Health Studies study reveals that teaching time management techniques can be more effective at reducing stress levels in college students for both males and females than engaging in leisure activities.
  • In "College Students Speak: A Survey on Mental Health," students reported that receiving accommodations such as tutoring, lower course loads, and help with communicating with their professors would have helped them stay in school.
  • The Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback suggests getting regular exercise, eating healthy foods, seeking academic help when needed, getting plenty of sleep, and finding a counselor if you are feeling overwhelmed with stress.

Help for Student Stress

The statistics on college student stress reveal that stress is a common problem for both men and women. If you or someone you know is experiencing an overwhelming amount of stress, it is important to seek out help immediately. Prolonged stress has negative physical and mental health consequences.

Universities have a number of resources and interventions to help students manage their stress and other mental health issues. If you don't feel comfortable going into the center, you might consider calling a hotline. Your mental and physical health is of the utmost importance, so if you're feeling overwhelmed, overworked, and stressed out, prioritize seeking out help to alleviate your symptoms.

Statistics on College Student Stress