June, 07, 2013

Depressed, anxious, lonely, and homesick: study reveals darker side to student life


Recent study conducted by YouthSight with 1,000 participants. Original press release can be found here.

A new study released by the Nightline Association suggests negative feelings and mood states including depression, anxiety, and stress are prevalent in the UK’s student population.

A nationally representative sample of 1000 university students found that 75% of you have personally experienced some kind of emotional distress while at university. Stress topped the list at 65% whilst 43% of you stated that you have experienced anxiety, loneliness and feelings of not being able to cope. Around 1/3 of students had felt depressed or homesick at some time whilst 29% had worried about not fitting in at university.

Of those surveyed, 1 in 12 stated that you have experienced suicidal thoughts – nearly half of which (45%) were based in the Midlands or Scotland.

The research, conducted by YouthSight, also found that of the students who reported negative feelings, around 1/3 (32%) had experienced them at night – a time when other specialist welfare services are usually closed.

Mags Godderidge, Charity Development Manager states: “This research gives us an interesting insight into student well being. Only 5% of students surveyed agreed with the statement ‘No, I don’t know anyone who has experienced these feelings whilst at university’ suggesting these negative feelings and mood states are prevalent in the UK student population. That so many students are feeling anxious, depressed, lonely and homesick during the night only further supports the need for services like Nightline”.

Last November, data from the Office for National Statistics published by Mental Wealth UK revealed that student suicides had doubled over a four year period between the years 2007-2011 whilst last month results from a NUS survey indicated high levels of stress and anxiety in the student population.

Teddy Woodhouse, Head of External Communications, and a former Nightline listening volunteer at St Andrews said: “All Nightlines are run by students for students. We know that university is a time of many changes and challenges so we can empathise with service users. Our specially trained volunteers listen to whatever it is that is troubling a student caller. Given that Nightline is confidential and anonymous, students accessing the service don’t have to give their name.”

Hannah Paterson, NUS Disabled Students Officer, said: “I think that the Nightline survey confirms much of the findings of the recent NUS mental health research. Three quarters of the Nightline respondents states that they had experienced some kind of emotional distress whilst at university. It was clear from the NUS findings that mental health is something that needs to be addressed on UK campuses, and this survey serves to compound that assertion. NUS is currently meeting with mental health organisations in a bid to bring all stakeholders together to examine the standard of mental health care in UK universities.”

Fieldwork for this research was conducted by YouthSight on behalf of the Nightline Association between 25-30 April 2013. The sample consisted of 1000 questionnaires being completed by full-time students representative of the UK undergraduate population in terms of gender, year of study, and university type. Further data from this survey is available here.

Statistics on deaths by suicide for students aged 18 and above, 2007-2011. Data found here.

The NUS Mental Distress Survey Overview can be found here.


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  1. Rowan Saker

    As a student who is already suffering with depression and anxiety issues as A level, I’m sacred of moving on to Uni. I’m aware of all the possibilities that are opened for me, and all the enjoyment I could have, but Uni life, from money to the increased workload, seem to be a trigger for those previously ‘healthy’.

    Some places, such as my college, are very understanding and supportive of students with such illnesses, but I fear that the stigmas that still surround mental health, and with parents and family believing that stress is a normal part of education and student life, many people who could get help, and be supported are over looked. Dangerously so, as many commit suicide, alone and thinking there is no other way.

  2. iqrah gul

    Best thing to do is continue living with your parents!! Helps a lot!

  3. Rebecca Massheder-Stuart

    This is very much the norm in all educational institutes and we need to do something within the institutes to decrease this.

  4. Holly Cartlidge

    Very glad to be reading this as I a University student myself understands how the majority of students living away from home are feeling. I’d say at least every student here has gone through phases of depression or anxiety etc but kept it hidden. I think its common for teenagers to hide these things away and sit behind a content identity shown through social networks to one another. I do think its massively important that Universities offer counselling services and talks with personal tutors as keeping these feelings bottled up doesn’t help anybody. I also think the symptoms of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) are common and provoke these negative feelings because the year starts in September, which means less day light causing more negativity in peoples thoughts whilst moving away from home into a completely new habitat. The students first few months of adjusting are spent in dark weather which causes negative thoughts towards settling down into university. Therefore I think Niteline will be more than helpful to students who are going through these phases of thinking.

  5. Kayleigh Baker

    I am happy that this article recognises the seriousness of some of the things students are experiencing!

    Students are in need for a lot more support than what is available.

    Mental distresses such as depression and anxiety so powerfully affect and change the path of a persons life. Even though there is awareness of its prevalence and seriousness in society, there seems all awareness and little action. Why are mental health issues dismissed with lesser importance compared to physical health issues?

    Students may not wish to contact anybody for support for feeling there worries may be dismissed, or they may be treated wrongly and misunderstood. Society sometimes still takes a view that those feeling depressed or stressed should ‘snap out of it’, a notion which is unachievable. As a result, students are reluctant admit to mental health issues, and therefore reluctant to get support.

    More progress is needed to adjust societies’ view of mental illness! Dealing with those feelings is difficult, and even more difficult when alone. Students need as much support as possible, to assure them that it isn’t their fault and that there is help available.

    I am glad, Nightline is taking steps to look out for students, it is that simple notion that there are people there for them, that give students the strength to seek help.

  6. Lena Adams

    I can imagine something like this affecting me if i decide to live away from family while at University. The best thing to do is seek advice but talk to other people in the same situation as you so then you could all pull through it together :)

  7. Alex Caskey

    Glad someone’s looking out for students today!
    As if it wasn’t hard enough to struggle through life, you have to amass thousands of pounds of debt with no guaranteed way of paying it off, and then still be treated like a waster by the generation that actually didn’t pay to go to university, and that got jobs simple because they had degrees, and that are able to own houses because the market wasn’t in tatters, and are currently manning positions simply because they ‘always have’!