A recent university study has found that student stress is increasing to the point of mental illness, because of cost of living and tuition fees.
The University of Queensland’s study of almost 6500 Australian university students concluded that student stress levels were rising with more than 80 per cent of students claiming that they suffered distress.
Study author Dr Helen Stallman, a clinical psychologist and researcher with UQ’s Schools of Medicine and Pharmacy, said she was worried and surprised by findings that almost one-fifth of the distressed students were classified as having a serious mental illness. What concerned her most was that only one-third (34.3 percent) of the most seriously affected students reported consulting a health professional.
Dr Stallman said the study showed the need for higher educational institutions to be proactive in promoting the mental health and wellbeing of students, in addition to specific targeted areas such as alcohol abuse.
Natalie Car, 18, is studying security studies at Macquarie University and says she is not surprised by the findings.
“My stress levels have reached an eight out of 10. They’re high but not excruciating,” Miss Car told The Newsroom.
“I have the stress of not only the workload but also the fact that I may or may not get a job at the end of my degree.
“I see people around uni who are very stressed and isolated. There is an underlining burden of having to pay off my HECS debt.”
Luisa Esposito, 18, is studying law and business/commerce at Western Sydney University. She said she was stressed but this was mostly related to the course work, rather than the external environment.
“Having to pass all my units because I really don’t want to repeat them, and keeping my distinction average, causes me to endure stress and, to some extent, anxiety,” Miss Esposito told The Newsroom.
Due to increases in tertiary education tuition fees, more parents are taking on the burden of supporting their children; purchasing textbooks, laptops and stationary. They are also often relied on to meet accommodation expenses, with basic cost of living on campus ranging from $1400 to $2000 each month, according to the University of Sydney.
Lango Conteh, 18, is studying a Bachelor of Nursing at the University of Notre Dame and said it was a shame students had to worry more about money than study.
“We shouldn’t have to worry about whether we can afford to go to uni,” she said.
“It also deters from the amount of people considering tertiary education as the cost is not worth it as you don’t want to work your whole life paying off uni fees.
“Education should be free. If we’re going to have to pay for it at least make it affordable for everyone, not only people that earn six figures.”
A study conducted by the Faculty of Science at the University of New South Wales found about one-third of university students met the criteria for a mental disorder. The most common mental disorders were personality disorders, depression, anxiety disorders and eating disorders. – Madeleine Wilson and Ben Owusu
Photo by Madeleine Wilson.