Thursday, November 11, 2010

Economic Dissatisfaction Affecting College Student's Mental Health

A series of recent studies shows that depression and anxiety among college students and recent college graduates is the highest it has been in over 10 years.

The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, a questionnaire used to assess a variety of mental disorders, was administered to large samples of college students by researchers at San Diego State University. The survey has been used to collect mental health data on United States college students since as far back as 1938.

According to the survey, eight times as many college students meet the criteria for major depressive disorder and/or generalized anxiety disorder than 10 years ago.

Interestingly, the increase in anxiety and depression appears to be due to young people’s changing values and views about the world.

According to Jean Twenge, the lead researcher behind the study, college students have experienced a generational shift from “intrinsic” to “extrinsic” goals. Intrinsic goals deal with a person’s sense of self worth, development, and understanding of the world. Extrinsic goals focus on material wealth, status and how other people perceive them.

Twenge noted a poll of college freshmen that found “being well off financially” was more important to them than “developing a meaningful philosophy of life.” This attitude is drastically different from years past when the opposite was true, Twenge said.

This extrinsic concern is supported by research at Harvard University. The 17th Edition Survey of Young Americans’ Attitudes toward Politics and Public Service by Harvard University shows that financial obligations and employment are the number one concern among college students.

Here were some of the findings:

- 85% think the current economic state will make it difficult for their graduating class to find permanent jobs upon graduation.
- 62% are concerned with meeting their bills and obligations.
- 59% are worried about having money for “extras”
- 59% are worried about finding an affordable place to live.
- 47% worried about being able to live in the city of their choice after graduation.

The Panetta Institute for Public Policy and Hart Research Associates support these findings in their 2010 Survey of America’s College Students.

According to the survey, 83% of students view the economy as weak, and 40% say they have been personally affected as a result. In fact, 74% of college seniors said they are worried about finding a job after graduation, the lowest number the survey has ever seen.

Other concerns include having too much student loan debt (44%), too much credit card debt (25%), being able to afford health care (31%) and their personal financial situation (68%).

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