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New report identifies common mental health issues among students, ways they cope

College students say they feel stressed 80% of the time. They also experience feelings of anxiousness and being overwhelmed.

AUSTIN, Texas — A new report was released this week using research from the largest mental health survey of its kind. Nearly 20,000 college students were surveyed to learn more about their mental health.

The survey was done over the last two years by Austin-based nonprofit Hi, How Are You Project. The College Student Mental Wellness Advocacy Coalition helped put the report together. 

In the survey, students were asked to rate their current lives on a scale from 0 to 10, with 0 being the worst possible life and 10 representing the best possible life. Depending on the number they chose, most students fell into one of these categories:

  • "Thriving" students rated their current life as 7 and higher and their future life as 8 and higher
  • "Maintaining" students occupied the in-between, rating their current life between 5 to 6 and their future life between 5 and 7
  • "Struggling" students rated their current life 4 and below and their future life 4 and below

Of the students surveyed, 39% fell into the "thriving" category, 13% were classified as "maintaining" and 3% fell into the "struggling" category.

The survey also asked students which emotions they usually feel. Students responded that 80% of the time, they feel stressed. 

"They are experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety and feeling overwhelmed," said Dr. Kate Lowery with the College Student Mental Wellness Advocacy Coalition. "So, we've been able to look at the data and really learn about the behaviors and environments and things that students do to help help them de-stress."

There are a couple of things college students turn to in an effort to alleviate stress.

"The No. 1 activity they turn to in times of stress or to really help focus on mental well-being is they turn to music," Lowery said. "And then socializing is the second most popular thing that they do. So, we're happy to see that that is happening on campuses."

Students also said they watch TV, take a walk, get a good night's sleep and exercise to alleviate stress. While all these things help, music still remains the top thing students turn to in a time of stress. 

"It can have a calming effect or kind of help them kind of disconnect from the daily stressors," Lowery said. "Go to a place that's positive and really tapping into the joy that music brings, whether it's listening to the lyrics or just disconnecting."

Knowing this, researchers suggest that creating social events around music could be a great way to promote social interactions among college students and help them achieve good mental health. 

Researchers hope student housing providers and universities use the data gathered from the survey to support students' needs. 

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