Study: freshmen at record-low for emotional health


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First-year students on university campuses are more stressed than ever, according to a recent study.

Whether the curriculum, financial aid, or the grim economy are to blame, college freshmen can’t seem to stop stressing.

The Cooperative Institutional Research Program’s Freshman Survey, an annual survey of first-year students at four-year colleges and universities, shows self-reported emotional health dropped to record lows in 2010.

The trend appears to be local, too.

Sam Cochran, the director of University Counseling Service, said more new students are coming through his doors at Westlawn.

“Students seeking services are more knowledgeable,” he said. “They don’t have the same stigma barrier that I have seen years ago.”

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The national study, administered by the Higher Education Research Institute, found only 52 percent of students reported their emotional health was “above average” in 2010, a 3.4 percentage points drop from 2009.

The study also found male students are more likely than female students to report high levels of emotional health by more than 13 percentage points.

Cochran said he’s noticed a gender gap between the men and women who seek help at the University of Iowa. He said he believes women are more inclined to seek help and talk about how they feel.

“There is a stigma barrier of the male gender role,” Cochran said. “Young men aren’t as constrained by gender roles as they used to be, but they still aren’t coming in and talking. There’s a gender gap there.”

UI freshman Aaron Schill said his parents do not pay for his tuition or housing, and that lack of money causes him great stress.

“A lot of my friends’ parents are paying for it, but I have to have a job and pay for student loans,” he said. “It’s a bigger deal for me.”

UI freshman Erin Muncer said though she’s not stressed about finances, she can definitely see the need for a counselor for difficult academics.

“Definitely in high school I knew that a lot of teachers would give you the right answer, but here you get more embarrassed if your answer is wrong, which is another stressor,” she said.

And UI sophomore Kayla Bastien said she actually feels more stressed as a sophomore than she did as a freshman.

“A lot of it is because classes are getting more advanced,” she said. “Another part is just worrying about the future.”

Cochran said it’s hard to say whether more difficult curriculum is a cause of increased stress, but said academics are contributors.

“I wouldn’t pin it on [curriculum] alone,” he said. “I don’t have any notion that the curriculum is harder now or not. I think competition for classes is a difficult thing to cope with.”

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