Is it any wonder students are suffering from mental health issues when debt is this high?
Researchers say there is a ‘vicious cycle’ surrounding anxiety and financial difficulty
In a recent study, it has come to light that students who are worried about debt are more likely to suffer from depression and alcohol dependancy.
The study by Southampton University and Solent NHS Trust showed that for those who have worries about their finances, their symptoms of depression and alcohol abuse worsened. It also illustrated that levels of depression and stress were more prevalent when there were underlying concerns of debt due to their studies.
400 undergraduate first years took part in the study which assessed a range of financial situations, such as family affluence, recent financial difficulties and quarterly reviews of attitudes towards finances. This enabled the researchers to work out which factor of the “vicious circle” comes first, financial difficulties or poor mental health.
Dr Thomas Richardson, leader of the study at Southampton University said that financial difficulties are exacerbated by anxiety and alcohol dependence, creating a “vicious cycle”. He stated: “Interventions which tackle both difficulties at the same time are therefore most likely to be effective.”
He said that starting uni can be a “stressful and daunting time” where young people will naturally worry about finances. He said: “We might not be able to change how much debt students are in, but we can work with them to help them manage their finances and worries about money in order to mitigate the impact of these worries on mental health.”
Astrid, who goes to Leeds University, said it was a combination of issues including debt: “With money worries, a family support network that had decided to move to Canada, an oppressive living situation, no job, and some bizarre latent fear of cancer, my anxiety spiralled into unbearable health anxiety and fear of illness unlike anything I’ve ever known.”
A study by Future Finance, a specialist loan lender, found that 63 per cent of students are worrying about their finances all or most of the time and, for some, this has led to serious problems with mental health.
The vice-chancellor of York University reported that 80 per cent of UK universities have experienced an increase in complex mental health problems among their student populations. This proves that there is a rising problem with mental health among student communities that could tie in with the increasing pressure being placed on students due to higher university fees.
It was also reported that out of York University’s 24 ambulance call-outs over a period of five weeks earlier this year, half were for self-harm or suicide attempts. In addition, figures from the ONS reveal that levels of student suicides are at an eight year high.
Save the Student has stated that students are being “short changed” buy the UK finance system due to vast increases in university fees and living costs. This can only make the cutting of maintenance grants more concerning for the future of student welfare.