The rise of mental health issues on college campuses has become a major concern. According to a new study by Boston University, the rate of mental health issues among college students has steadily increased over the past eight years.

To understand students’ struggles with mental health and whether or not they feel they have on-campus resources to turn to, in August, Intelligent.com surveyed 1,000 18 to 24 year old undergraduate students who attend at least some classes on campus.

Key findings include: 

  • 71% of college students struggle with mental health
  • Half of college students have experienced depression, since attending college
  • 27% of students have experienced discrimination; three-quarters say it’s been damaging to their mental health
  • 42% of college students consider dropping out of school due to mental health struggles
  • 50% of students who are struggling are not confident in their school’s ability to help

7 in 10 college students struggle with mental health

Many college students are struggling with mental health. Twenty-four percent say they ‘struggle a great deal,’ and 47% ‘struggle a little.’ Additionally, 19% say they ‘don’t struggle much,’ and 10% ‘don’t struggle at all.’

Struggling with mental health is new for 18% of students, while 82% say they experienced mental health issues prior to starting college.

However, the majority of those with a history of mental health issues, are struggling more now. Eighteen-percent are struggling ‘a lot more,’ while 41% are struggling ‘a little bit more.’

The vast majority of students (87%) report experiencing at least one mental health condition. The most prevalent mental health conditions among college students are anxiety (73%), depression (53%), disordered eating (31%), and suicidal thoughts (22%).

Classes, personal finances drive anxiety

Anxiety is the most common mental health condition on college campuses. It’s been experienced by 73% of students since attending college.

Students are most likely to report that classes (70%), personal finances (58%), and life post graduation (55%) make them anxious. Students also report feeling anxious about friendships (39%), the economy (36%), and romantic partners (33%).

3 in 4 students who’ve experienced discrimination say it’s been damaging to mental health

Twenty-seven percent of current college students say they have personally experienced discrimination or being treated unfairly because of unalterable characteristics. Of these students, 77% say discrimination has been ‘very damaging’  (31%) or ‘somewhat damaging’ (47%) to their mental health.

For students who report being discriminated against, 14% say they experience discrimination ‘very frequently,’ while 24% say ‘often,’ 35% ‘sometimes,’ and 28% ‘rarely.’

Students are most often discriminated against by peers, classmates

Students report that discrimination most commonly comes from peers (56%) and classmates (56%). They also report being treated differently by professors (27%), friends (26%), and other campus staff members (24%).

Students say they are discriminated against because of their race or ethnicity (52%), weight or appearance (45%), gender (36%), and/or sexuality (28%).

6 in 10 students struggling with mental health consider dropping out

Of students who report struggling with their mental health, 59% say they consider dropping out ‘all of the time’ (14%) or ‘some of the time’ (45%).

This means, overall, close to half of all college students (42%) think about dropping out due to the state of their mental health.

Erin Halligan-Avery, PhD, who is the President of ConcernCenter, has a PhD in Mental Health Counseling and Supervision, and has spent 18 years in higher education offers some insight.

“The results of this survey are not alarming to someone who has been in the field as long as I have and who has seen student distress first hand,” says Halligan-Avery. “College students are struggling with academic stress, home-challenges, their identity, and myriad other mental health concerns at rates that are rising indefinitely. Despite having good intentions, colleges are not always well-equipped to handle the outpouring of student needs. Many students consider dropping out because they are unclear about their path forward and know that it costs a lot of money to keep going to school without a solid direction.”

Half of students are not confident in their college’s ability to help

Overall, 80% of students say mental health services are ‘very’ (32%) or ‘somewhat’ (48%) available on their campus.

Students who attend schools that provide support say they offer counseling services (81%), student organizations (52%), support groups (45%), and an anonymous hotline (39%).

However, 42% of students who are currently struggling say they probably wouldn’t (35%) or ‘definitely wouldn’t’ (6%) use resources offered by the college.

Students expressed that they would not utilize these services because they are not confident in their college’s ability to help (50%). Additionally, students say they wouldn’t seek help from the college because they can find better resources outside of the school (43%) and/or they are too embarrassed (35%).

Methodology

All data found within this report derives from a survey commissioned by Intelligent.com and conducted online by survey platform Pollfish. In total, 1,000 U.S. college students (18-24 years old) were surveyed.

Appropriate respondents were found via Pollfish’s screening tools a screening question. To take the survey respondents had to answer that they are currently an undergraduate student who takes at least some classes on campus. They also had to consent to answering questions about mental health.

This survey was conducted on August 28, 2022. All respondents were asked to answer all questions truthfully and to the best of their abilities. For full survey data, please email Content Marketing Manager Julia Morrissey at [email protected]