Researchers at UCLA are finding that this year’s batch of college freshmen are more depressed, worried about money, partying much less and taking their academics more seriously.
The survey polled 153,000 students last summer at 227 four-year colleges. According to Kevin Eagan, interim managing director of UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute, which administers the survey every year, college freshman “were buckling down prior to college and taking their academics more seriously.”
Partying: The poll found that as high schoolers, college freshman are partying less. Only 11% of respondents said they spent six or more hours a week at parties in high school — 10 years ago, that number was 23%. As college freshmen, 61% say they spend at most an hour at parties, up from only 39% 10 years ago.
Drinking: College freshman are also drinking much less, with only 33.5% saying they drink beer occasionally or frequently compared to 45.5% a decade ago. In 1984, 69% of freshman drank beer occasionally. When it comes to hard alcohol and wine, only 39% of freshman say they’ve had a drink in the past year; 10 years ago it was 52%, and in 1987 it was 68%.
Mental Health: Students rate themselves as more depressed than ever. Nearly 12% of freshman rated their mental health as worse than others their age compared to only 7% a decade ago and 3.5% in 1985. Almost a tenth, 9.5%, of students said they felt generally depressed compared to only 6% in 2009.
Money: For college freshman, nothing is more important than making money. A record 82% said it was very important or essential that they become well-off financially, compared with only 77% in 2008 before the recession hit.
Why? The most obvious cause for the change in behavior stems from growing up through the recession and economic crisis. With more on the line in terms of personal success, students are more stressed and focused on doing well in school. Eagan adds that “this is signaling that students are bringing with them some emotional struggles, some mental health issues,” issues that he explains could make it harder for students to perform well in school.
The added stress and under-exposure to social aspects of college life, like partying and drinking, can also lead to to immoderation, binge drinking and getting in trouble more, like sheltered children let loose in a corrupt world.
The cost of college and student debts adds only more woes to the new freshman stress cases — and this is also assuming that you believe that college is the most viable path to financial security.