Survey: 1 in 4 UK University Students Has Mental Health Issue

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

A recent survey of 1,061 students by YouGov has revealed alarming data about the extent of mental health problems at universities across the United Kingdom. The workload at school, job insecurity upon graduation, and college debts were among the main causes of stress, the study found.

The results showed that one in four undergraduate students in the United Kingdom reported having a mental health issue. Female students are more likely to suffer from such conditions than males (34 percent vs. 19 percent), the study concluded. According to YouGov, the likelihood of developing mental health problems in LGBT students is significantly higher compared to their heterosexual peers (45 percent vs. 22 percent).

As Aftab Ali of The Independent writes, depression and anxiety were the most common mental health issues cited by the survey respondents. Nearly three-quarters of those suffering from a mental health problem reported both. Almost half of the students admitted the health issues affected their daily routine. 47 percent of those surveyed said they had serious difficulties completing their tasks, with 4 percent of them claiming that even the simplest task was too challenging for them.

The primary cause of stress among 71 percent of the undergraduate students was studying, writes Matthew Smith of the Huffington Post. The second biggest concern for about 40 percent of the respondents was finding a job after school. 35 percent of the surveyed mentioned family issues as another source of stress.

Despite the statistics, only 18 percent of the respondents had already contacted the mental health services on campus, writes Hannah Richardson of the BBC. Of those, nine out of ten people had met a counselor.

Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of Universities UK, stated that universities took these issues very seriously. However, he also added that although well-being services on campus were impeccable, they could not replace the specialized care that the NHS can provide for students with mental disorders.

The study comes as a separate research project by the University of Southampton and Solent NHS Trust. As Josie Gurney-Read of The Telegraph noted, the financial problems and concerns about paying debts upon graduation significantly increase the risks of developing mental health conditions such as depression and alcohol dependency among young people.

Dr. Thomas Richardson, who is in charge of the Community Mental Health Journal study, commented:

"Coming to university can be a stressful and daunting time for young people and finances can cause a lot of hassle. We might not be able to change how much debt students are in, but we can work with them to help them manage their finances and worries about money to mitigate the impact of these thoughts on mental health."

Elaine Hindal, chief executive of Drinkaware, an alcohol education charity, admitted that alcohol could have a temporary, positive impact on mood, but warned that regular, excessive drinking could damage students' mental health by increasing the levels of anxiety and stress.

Speaking at a wellbeing conference in June, Ulster University Professor Siobhan O'Neill focused on the problems with loneliness and anxiety among students across the country. For the first time, she revealed the findings of a study of 355 suicides in young people below 25 years of age in Northern Ireland. Her findings showed that over half of the people who committed suicide had a prior attempt. Furthermore, 64 percent of the males had consumed alcohol at the time of death, and a third of females who died by suicide were students.

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