College Students are Suffering Due to Stress

Many college students, including Sarah Nadzan, a junior telecommunications major at Youngstown State University, have a complicated relationship with stress. On one hand, Nadzan says she relies on stress for motivation. On the other hand, stress can be overwhelming, causing physical symptoms such as lightheadedness, nausea, and fatigue. Nadzan had to leave work during finals week this term due to these symptoms. While student stress can be acute, defined as a dramatic physiological and psychological reaction to a specific event, the Student Voice survey found that 56 percent of students have experienced chronic stress, defined as a consistent sense of feeling overwhelmed over a long period of time. Chronic stress is particularly worrisome as it is linked to mental and physical health issues. Students with physical disabilities or chronic illnesses have faced chronic stress at a higher rate – 69 percent in college. Almost 80 percent of students with mental health conditions have also felt chronic stress. There is a clear connection between Student Voice respondents’ experiences with chronic stress and how they rate their mental health. Those with good to excellent mental health rated their chronic stress lower, while those who rated their mental health as poor reported high levels of chronic stress.

Seli Fakorzi, director of mental health operations at TimelyCare, explains that chronic stress is prolonged over a period of time and affects a student’s daily life. The exhaustion that comes as a result of chronic stress affects the way a student eats, sleeps, their thoughts, feelings and decisions, which can really harm the student.

The Student Voice survey found that academics are particularly stressful for students. After their own mental health and personal finances, academics were students’ third-biggest stressor. Among the top academic stressors were exams, the pressure to perform, balancing school and other obligations, essays or papers, and getting a bad grade. Homework or readings, pressure to decide on a career and group projects were also top stressors. Additionally, mental health matters in identifying stressors. Students who rate their mental health as excellent are less impacted by academic pressure to perform, as it is their fifth largest academic stressor, affecting only 25 percent of these students.

Overall, stress can be motivating for some students, but it can also be severely debilitating. Those with chronic illness or mental health conditions are more likely to experience chronic stress, impacting their daily lives. Academics are a major stressor for students, and mental health plays a role in identifying stressors.

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