Research: Mental Health in College Students


This study aims to identify and analyze how stress, depression, and anxiety can affect pessimistically on the mental health in college students. In addition to this, this research will analyze some root causes of stress and its consequences on their personal and academic lives. However, while determining the solutions to manage stress and anxiety amongst students, this article will recommend some mental health activities in college students.

Keywords:  Stress, Depression, Anxiety, Mental Health, College Students, Mental Health Activities


Stress is an unavoidable part of life that can surround students with physical, emotional, and mental health problems, unless or until they learn to manage them in an appropriate manner. However, college students who encounter these academic-related stress and anxieties find drastic changes in their lifestyles including increased workload, accountabilities, and interpersonal relationships.

Students who suffer from extreme depression not only experience physical, mental, and emotional hindrances, but their social and academic lives are more likely to drop out from the school or college because of lack of performance. Since the awareness for mental health in students increases, numerous researches have been conducted on it and several results have been found.

According to one of the studies conducted by the Emory University, approximately 11.1% of students are reported to having suicidal ideation and 16.5% of students have realistically attempted suicide or self-injured themselves at least once. This has a deep connection with the stress in college students and students who are found in such situations are involved in chronic depression symptoms (Stephenson, Crosby, & Gaylor, 2021).

Well, from the viewpoint of biology, stress is depicted as an intellectual and emotional aspect that leads to physical and mental pressure amongst people. According to the experts, there are two major types of stress; external and internal stress. The external stress is cause by several outside factors, for instance environmental concerns and social opinions etc. On the other hand, the internal stress is caused by the feelings and thoughts of anxiety that precedes to illness or trauma (Stress Effect on Physical and Mental Health, 2020).

The modern education system has now modified into a continuous flow of assignments, quizzes, research papers, and exams, which is an endless movement of the information that requires students to process. Although a lot of researchers suggest that mental stress is normal amongst students and is helpful to keep them on track with their projects and tasks. But, it does not have a good impact on the mental health of students since it prevents them from maintaining a healthy lifestyle and live optimally. Therefore, this paper will discuss some of the negative impacts of stress on students’ mental health, its consequences, and some recommendations to manage stress fruitfully.

The Concept of Stress and Mental Health in College Students

Stress and anxiety is more vulnerable for college student specifically and the college life can be very depressing. Nonetheless, moderate stress is considered helpful to encourage students to work hard and keep growing. Such as, students are usually seen putting more concentration and effort for their exams when they are stressed. This results in scoring higher grades and motivate them to work harder ahead. This type of stress is called positive stress because it develops student’s and person’s performance (Negative Effects of Stress on a College Student, 2022).

Usually, people fail to distinct between the positive and negative stress. It can be differentiated by how long and intense stress you are facing. Generally, the positive stress does not last for much longer and it quickly motivates people or students to complete their work fruitfully. On the flip side, negative stress involves continuous depression, anxiety, and mental illness that lasts longer and eventually results in the behavioral, physical, and psychological problems (Negative Effects of Stress on a College Student, 2022).

Mental Health Disorders in College Students

According to the National College Health Assessment in Fall 2021, probably 30% of students uttered that their anxiety influenced cynically on their academic performance. moreover, only one out of five students has been diagnosed with numerous mental health disorders, such as depression (Muniz & Pietrucha, 2021).

Mental health disorders in students can be identified through their mood swings or behavior disturbance. There are several common mental health problems faced by college students that may lead them to eating disorders, misuse of substance, or ultimately suicidal attempt.

1.  Anxiety

As per a study by Pennsylvania State University in 2016, about 61% of students were found with anxiety, which was considered the most common mental health state amongst students. In other words, every one in three students reported positive for anxiety disorder (Locke & Stauffe, 2016). However, some essential symptoms of anxiety often include regular stress or excessive worrying. Yet, these symptoms vary from person to person. And, some other anxiety symptoms include:

  • Constant diarrhea or upset stomach
  • Breath shortness
  • Continuous restlessness or fearfulness
  • Muscular pain or stress
  • Headache
  • Trouble in focusing
  • Irritability
  • Extreme dizziness or sweating

2.  Depression

In Health Minds Study 2021, it is found that about 22% of college students were found positive for critical depression and that of 41% were found with general depression. This study made the depression as one of the most common mental health disorder across the United States, especially amongst students (Eisenberg, Lipson, & Heinze, Mental Health, 2021). The symptoms of depression also vary as per the person and some common signs may include:

  • Change in eat and sleep habits
  • Increased negativity in personality
  • Trouble in paying attention
  • Constant feeling of sadness or hopelessness
  • Difficulty in understanding and executing school/college tasks
  • Change in social behaviors
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3.  Suicidal Intent or Ideation

Suicidal ideation is another form of mental disorder, which is a pattern of having an idea, intention, or planning of suicide. Usually, the mental health experts consider this situation as a mental health emergency.

According to a 2018 research by Harvard Medical School, every one in five college students experience suicidal attempts in the United States. More recently, a report by Healthy Minds in 2021 showed that 5% of students had planned to commit suicide in the previous year (Younghans, 2018).

Students with social ideation have been seen with behavioral, speech, and mood changes.

  • Behavioral changes may include cutting off from family, friends, and relatives, strangely visiting people to meet them for the last time, researching about suicidal acts, reckless behavior, aggression, or increased use of drugs or alcohol.
  • Speech changes are also seen in people with suicidal ideation disorder. These people may talk about feeling burdened, trapped, or talk about that they have no reason to live or wanting something in life.
  • Mood changes include loss of interest in activities that they enjoyed before, touchiness, anxiety, short-temperedness, aggression, humiliation, and depression.

4.  Eating Disorders

Eating disorders covers a wide range of states which could be manifested by the abnormal eating habits. This may lead to either of two ways; binge eating or food deficiency. Nonetheless, the data shows that about 11 to 17 percent of female and 4 percent of male college students are reported for eating disorder symptoms in the United States (Eisenberg, Nicklett, Roeder, & Kirz, 2013).

However, numerous signs and symptoms of eating disorders include bulimia, anorexia, and binging. Some other include:

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Distorted body structure
  • Dehydration
  • Fear of eating in public
  • Extreme exercise
  • Making excuses for eating habits

In case you witness any of the aforementioned symptoms or signs in your friend, classmate, family member, or anyone, it is better to talk to them and ask them to share their concerns with you. Still if you feel no changes, you should inform their guardians to take care of them and do whatever is required in order to avoid a big loss.

Negative Effects of Mental Health Disorders in College Students

Negative stress or other mental health disorders can affect students physically, psychologically, and emotionally.  Students, who are under stressful conditions, may suffer diminished physical coordination, insomnia, lack of focus, and short-term memory. In addition, negative stress may also impact mental health of college students; for instance, dropping of self-confidence, decreased interpersonal and educational execution, feeling of self-pity or self-doubt, and other signs (Smith & Arlene).

On the other hand, if the student is encountering coping with the things, he or she is more probably to acquire irregular or abnormal behaviors such as usage of substance, drugs, or alcohol, eating disorders, bullying, increased smoking, isolation, or cruel attitude towards others (Hirsch, K., B., & Ellis). Also, there are numerous other stress and mental health-relevant factors that may contribute to student’s academic performance. The educational performance of a college student depends on their routines including exercise, nutritional consumptions and social support (S., Goldman, & Wong, 1997). Stress can also lead to some nutrition problems in students because of the eating disorders since they may face challenges in getting proper meals. This may cause an extended stress amongst them and affect their focus in their academics (Oxington, 2005).

Majority of college students spend less time in studying and waste a lot of time in doing other activities. However, those who work and study at the same time may also be the target of some mental health issues.  Such students are fatigued and exhausted and may cause poor attendance records and poor academic performance (Hammer, Grigsby, & Woods, 02 Apr 2010).

Mental Health Activities in College Students

It is said that the main cause of mental health disorder is the combination of environmental stress, genetics, and biochemical imbalance in the body. Therefore, in order to get rid or reducing these illnesses, students should obtain some mental health activities. Practicing these habits are extremely useful in kids, youngsters, and adults.

Regular Exercise

Numerous mental health issues might be reduced with exercise. Stress causes health problems including sleeplessness, migraines, and body aches, which take away from life’s pleasure. These difficulties are the signs of serious pandemic diseases like osteoporosis. Additionally, stress is highly associated with vata dysregulation, which is characterized by diminished flexibility and imbalance as a result of an excessive air increase in the body. High air quality may result in changes in mood brought on by inability to concentrate. The main signs of this illness are stress and sleeplessness. Some symptoms are related to stress. Exercising prevents these illnesses from developing as a result of intense everyday difficulties (Stress Impacts on Psychological and Physiological Health, 22 Oct 2020).

Frequent Breaks

Taking breaks frequently help you manage the stress that comes with studying. In between classes, do things like watch TV, go out with friends, or hang out with them. This tactic aids in diverting your attention away from your academics and into anything else. Despite the fact that this method does not alter the unpleasant learning environment, it functions as a useful coping technique since it aids in reducing or removing the source of stress. In fact, it is suitable because canceling plans is the most practical approach to deal with academic workload (Stress Impacts on Psychological and Physiological Health, 22 Oct 2020).


Lack of satisfaction amongst students or other people might be a result of stress. They become unable to perform both productively and effectively as a result. It has a strong positive correlation with stress, which is a significant contributor to poor performance. One of the risk factors for cancer, high blood pressure, and diabetes, among other chronic illnesses, is stress. Thus, people must learn coping mechanisms if they want to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Some recurrent health concerns are revealed by the investigation of the impacts of stress. Consequently, the research outlines four focus areas that help people grasp the issues caused by stress. These are the emotional, behavioral, physical, and psychological health elements. The findings of the study indicate that those who are more vulnerable to stress or other mental health disorder are more likely to have issues including sleeplessness, heart pressure difficulties, and increased anxiety, etc. Clinical depression is known to result in post-traumatic stress disorder. Therefore, it is essential to adopt mental health activities in college students and a number of other healthy practices that aid in the pursuit of anxiety reduction.


Eisenberg, D., Lipson, S. K., & Heinze, J. (2021). Mental Health. The Healthy Minds.

Eisenberg, D., Nicklett, E. J., Roeder, K., & Kirz, N. E. (2013). Eating Disorder Symptoms Among College Students: Prevalence, Persistence, Correlates, and Treatment-Seeking. United States: National Library of Medicine.

Hammer, L. B., Grigsby, T. D., & Woods, S. (02 Apr 2010). The Conflicting Demands of Work, Family, and School Among Students at an Urban University. The Journal of Psychology.

Hirsch, K., J., B., J., & Ellis. (n.d.). Differences in life stress and reasons for living among college suicide ideators and non-ideators. College Student Journal.

Locke, B., & Stauffe, A. (2016). Annual Report. Center for Collegiate Mental Health.

Muniz, H., & Pietrucha, M. (2021, Sep 28). The Top 5 Mental Health Challenges Facing College Students and How to Get Help. Retrieved from Best Colleges:

Negative Effects of Stress on a College Student. (2022, Jan 03). Retrieved from Study Corgi:

Oxington, K. V. (2005). Stress and Health New Research. New York: Nova Science Publisher.

S., C., Goldman, & Wong, E. H. (1997). Stress and the college student. Education; Project Innovation Austin LLC.

Smith, & Arlene, M. (n.d.). Drinking in stressful situations: College men under pressure (1990 and 1994). College Student Journal.

Stephenson, I., Crosby, A. E., & Gaylor, E. (2021, Aug 21). Suicidal Ideation and Behaviors Among High School Students — Youth Risk Behavior Survey, United States, 2019. United States: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).

Stress Effect on Physical and Mental Health. (2020, Dec 16). Retrieved from Study Crogi:

Stress Impacts on Psychological and Physiological Health. (22 Oct 2020). Study Corgi.

Younghans, J. (2018). College Stress. United States: Harvard Medical School.

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