THE IMPACT AMERICAN SOCIETY HAS ON ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION LEVELS IN COLLEGE STUDENTS

 THE IMPACT AMERICAN SOCIETY HAS ON ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION LEVELS IN COLLEGE STUDENTS

Disorders of the mind, particularly depression and anxiety have been experienced for thousands of years by humans. Whether it be called hysteria and melancholy in ancient Egypt, or anxiety and depression in modern day United States; they have persisted throughout the ages troubling people of all walks of life. Throughout their many names and associations, one country where they have taken an extreme toll on the population in recent years is the United States. It’s widely understood that mental health disorders have the ability to inhibit people from normally functioning in their lives. But what enforces these disorders to come about? Through a meta-analysis, the explanation of how the United States has unintentionally, yet fundamentally set it’s society up to lead anxious and depressed lives becomes clear as day. One group that amounts to great suffering of these two disorders are the over 17 million college students across the country (Infomory, 2014). Data has shown the stressors inflicted on college students today is unprecedented. Significant players in the developments of these disorders can pertain to the type of environment student’s grow up around, the utilization of treatment services, and don’t forget the massive hormonal shifts experienced during these years of young adulthood. In addition, the colossal costs and pressures of college, the stigmas around mental health issues, helicopter parenting and the incessant and almost unavoidable social media distractions. There is more than enough reason to believe students in the United States have plenty to be anxious and depressed about. All these facets attributed to anxiety and depression in college students come from the capitalistic and consumerist ideals that have long been imprinted in United States society. The connection between the United States and a student’s levels of anxiety and depression is evident and supported through experts in the fields of: social psychology, psychology and sociology along with epidemiology and other social sciences. There is a vast landscape of knowledge attributed to how society has the potential to shape the mental health of its citizens. The United States’ society is a prime example of this direct correlation.

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The backstory of how the majority of Americans in college got to where they did regarding anxiety and depression, really stems from what kids today believe to be normal. From childhood, society begins to categorize individuals into rigid social constructs that many times cannot be broken or swayed. The stigma around mental health issues has been deeply ingrained in American society and just in recent years has begun to lose some of its weight. Labelling people as ‘crazy’ and ‘incompetent’ for disorders as ungovernable as epilepsy, have ravaged the American public for generations. The idea that people, men especially, should not complain about being stressed out, or to seek help for mental health issues because it deems them weak, is all too widely accepted. A study out of Indiana University titled “A Disease Like Any Other’? A Decade of Change in Public Reactions to Schizophrenia, Depression, and Alcohol Dependence” explains that regardless of the emerging research behind psychological and neurobiological reasons for illnesses of the mind, the negative stigma still persists. Although this study is relatively dated from 2010, there is considerable evidence still today that holds water with this issue. It is said in the article that stigmas related to mental illness can “produce discrimination in employment, housing, medical care and social relationships, and negatively impact the quality of life for these individuals” (Pescosolido etal., 2010). Bernice Pescosolido, a sociologist out of Indiana University and an expert in this field of study says that; as a society, we need to change our game plan. Pescosolido believes we need to take a step away from the vocal mental health advocates who according to her just “sing to the choir.” The goal is to incorporate conversation about the science and explanation of mental health issues to “groups normally not involved with mental health issues — could be very effective in making people aware” (Pescosolido et al., 2010) of the realities of these disorders. To convince people the stigma around mental health they have been taught by society for years, is wrong may be a harder task to accomplish than imagined. A study published in 2009 titled “Stigma and Help seeking for Mental Health Among College Students” highlights many problems with stigma that apply exclusively to American college students. This study portrays how inbred negative mental health stigma is in America. From a range of 13 diversified colleges from every section of the country, targeting 1,000 randomized participants from each school; the researchers found stigma played a huge roll in their ability to seek help for their mental health. This study measured both personal and public stigma’s regarding the seeking of help for mental health problems. It identified that many “students reported high perceived public stigma and low personal stigma, but almost no student reported the reverse—high personal stigma and low perceived public stigma” (Esienberg et al, 2009). Essentially what this study explains is that public stigma around mental health is perceived to be very prevalent by college students in America regardless of their class, race or gender. One example presented in the study was that African American students reported higher levels of perceived public stigma, where Asians had the highest levels of reported personal stigma. But, white students also were the next runners up reporting relatively  high in both of the categories! mental-illness stigma .jpg

Targeting broader ranges of people in order to help them better understand the hardships of mental illness and overcome the stigma may be wishful thinking. On college campus’ across the country today, kids continue to report anxiety and depression in growing numbers, and negative stigmas remain maintained. A book written by Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff called “The Coddling of the American mind: How good intentions and bad ideas are setting up a generation for failure” published in 2018, examines how safteyism is the reason younger generations are developing these mental health disorders. The book describes how “screen time [is] replacing unstructured and unsupervised play time which has created a fragile generation” (Lukianoff & Haidt, 2018). The researchers, both claim that because emotional challenges have often been removed from pathways kids follow due to this safteyism culture, once they get to college their minds are overwhelmed with trying to make sense of it all. Safteyism can be defined as a belief system that is accepted by society in which the safety of people’s feelings and thoughts has become something of extremely high value. Author and statistician Nassim Nicholas Taleb, says that humans reap great benefit from adversity and working through challenges. Taleb believes the human race is actually ‘infragile’ and should be susceptible to mental and physical challenges to attain personal growth. The absence of stressors in life before college for kids born after 1995 is Lukianoff and Haidt’s main focus, as they say varied life experiences are what contribute to developing resilience and coping skills. The strength to seek help for mental health problems needs to be accepted socially in order to break the cycle of: childhood- to college/adolescence- to an anxious and depressed adulthood. As life got harder for Generation X after entering college, they began to succumb to chronic anxiety and depression because they did not have the adequate tools to deal with these new challenges and environments. Being fearful of negative stigmas attached to the feelings they have been experiencing is another obstacle for college students as well. By 2016, the Indiana University study reports, that 1 in 5 “American girls met the criteria for having experienced a major depressive episode in the previous year” (Lukianoff & Haidt, 2018). So essentially by over, or “helicopter parenting”, generation X has been programmed to not deal with adversity as well as their predecessors. Due to the rigid and seldom malleable stigmas, students feel trapped within themselves.  In this article published in 2013 titled, “Helping or Hovering? The effects of Helicopter Parenting on College Students’ Well-Being” , looked at how helicopter parenting affected the psychological functioning of students in college. Looking at a mostly caucasian sample of students from one liberal arts college in the mid-Atlantic region of the U.S., the study was not very diversified at all. However, the results are still worth sharing.  The study states “helicopter behaviors were associated with lower levels of perceived autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Lower levels of competence were related to higher levels of depression and lower levels of satisfaction with life” (Schiffrin, et al. 2014). Students who grew up fitting the criteria of being “helicopter parented” don’t stand exclusively to that one liberal arts college. Their lower levels of satisfaction in life along with higher levels of depression can be traced to kids all over the country experiencing the same symptoms. Regardless of how an individual was raised, something even more profound and readily accepted than the safteyism culture in the U.S., is the ‘workaholic’ culture that has taken America by storm.

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The emphasis on wanting kids to excel in school to become prestigious scholars and go on to lead careers in: engineering, medicine, and business has also fueled much of the anxiety and depression epidemic for students. The facetious statement “those who can’t do, teach”, along with other negative connotations toward careers which don’t require absurdly extensive schooling; have created a very depreciatory learning environment for the current student generation.  The desire to always want to excel to the peak of personal ability is a great stressor for many students in America today. Parents exhibiting excessive work habits often have a greater effect on their children than anticipated. Observing and learning that excessive work habits lead to things like material wealth, and advancement in status, are often held to high esteem by American families. But, what happens when they forget to factor in time to take care of their mental health? In this study by Bryan Robinson and Lisa Kelley “Adult Children of Workaholics: Self-Concept, Anxiety, Depression, and Locus of Control.” published by the American Journal of Family Therapy in 1998, shows just how much workaholic parents impact their children. This was published before the mind boggling technology explosion of the 2000’s graced our nation, and turned all operations up a notch. The study found that children of parents who were workaholics reported having elevated levels of depression and external locus control. A person who has difficulty with external locus control is more likely to believe their fate is dependent on outside factors which are past the point of personal control. Children of workaholic fathers in particular indicated that they “not only had greater depression and external locus of control but also scored higher on anxiety” (Robinson & Kelley, 1998). Watching parents run to and fro constantly trying to get ahead, has conditioned their children to exhibit the same actions and mentalities in their young adult lives. However, constantly wanting to get ahead in their careers is not the only thing college kids today are perpetually chasing. They are chasing a sense of material success and satisfaction, but unable to attain it due to how their minds are wired. This leads to low self confidence and self worth, which often funnel into symptoms of both anxiety and depression. David Hosier MSc, author of the book “Childhood Trauma: Emotional Abuse” published in 2015 is an expert in the field of psychology and highly experienced in education. Hosier explains that 

“The child of the workaholic parent often also finds that if s/he complains about his/her home life s/he will gain little sympathy or understanding from others. Indeed, these others may see him/her as privileged and ungrateful if s/he attempts to complain; indeed, they may, perhaps, respond with trite statements such as, ‘You don’t know how lucky you are’ or, worse still, ‘You spoilt little brat.’ Such responses will leave the child feeling very isolated and unable to share his/her emotional pain.” (Hosier, 2014)

Due to problems with self worth and confidence starting early in childhood, there is reason to acknowledge that because of the never ending schedules and deadlines American’s have to make, emotional well-being for all involved suffers long term.

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The reason for these workaholic parents is because often times there doesn’t appear to be a choice. Working day in and day out in order to support oneself and family and keeping up with the treadmill of consumption, is constantly throwing gas on the raging fire that is America’s most prized not so jolly giant, capitalism. America has undeniably become a consumerist culture tenfold, advertisements for everything under the sun infiltrate personal social media platforms so incessantly it is like the brands actually are a part of everyday life. For example, we are one of only 2 countries in the world (USA, and NZ) who advertises pharmaceuticals to consumers through the television sets in their own homes’ living rooms. Being unhappy with the current state of life, and always looking to better circumstances is something experienced vastly by college students, and our society at large today. The treadmill of consumption is never ending, the next best thing is now just a click away with applications like Apple Pay which lets someone pay for things with just their iPhone, and After Pay which allows people to pay for products in small installments over time. It’s now become easier than ever to want what others have and continue the cycle of consumerism and materialism, but when do they come into play regarding mental health?

In a 2011 study authored by Jennifer Ann Hill titled, “Endangered childhoods: how consumerism is impacting child and youth identity”, Hill identifies that the constant consumerism in America today has created a generation full of people who have little to no self concept or sense of identity. But, it makes sense. If an entire generation has the ability to look and wear things that Kendall Jenner promotes in hopes of recreating that life, are they really going to have an authentic relationship with their unique selves? Even Henry David Thoreau had said way back in the day, “It is preoccupation with possessions, more than anything else, that prevents us from living freely and nobly” and this statement still rings true today. Young people today are continually getting an “endless barrage of material messages encouraging purchasing behavior and consumption that impacts the self-image”(Hill, J. 2011). Hill states that the negative effects from consumerism affect girls more heavily as they are “targeted by marketers to sell them a whole line of products they ‘need’ to emulate a feminine idea” (Hill, J. (2011). Materialism and consumerism is irrefutably prevalent in American society. According to a Harvard study published in 2000, titled “Consumerism, Conformity, and Uncritical thinking”  the author George Frantz states that by the “age of 16 the typical American will have seen 6 million ads, which translates to one ad per waking moment”. This is an obscene amount of advertisement interaction for developing minds, and gives reason to believe kids are defenseless against this materialistic, neoliberal culture. Having disconcerting views of self image and confidence play a key role in irritating anxious or self depreciatory thoughts for both sexes. It is evident that participation in the treadmill of consumption for young people has brought baggage far beyond product shipments.

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Part of the reason American students experience such adverse effects from the country’s constant consumerist culture, is because of America’s dedication to capitalism at any cost. To really understand where the workaholics, the consumerists, and the stigmas around mental health issues come from, the explosion of capitalism after WW2 can provide many answers. The survival and success of the United States was held to a more important degree than the mental health of those pushing America to the top. Now we are able to see the side effects from just how detrimental that idea can manifest into. This study by Jeremy Seabrook, published online in 2018 titled “The mental health of societies” tells how the United States has impressive roots in “institutionalized permanent upheaval and change” (Seabrook, 2018). Along with how the United States has always been devising up a cocktail of mental health illnesses since it began its worldwide industrialization. Unbeknownst to the hidden consequences this type of advancement in industrialization and globalization would bring to thousands upon thousands of its citizens for years to come. In his article “A Mad World: Capitalism and the rise of mental illness“, Rob Tweedy, a leading editor and publisher for Karnac books tells that:

“Many of the contemporary forms of illness and individual distress that we treat and engage with certainly seem to be correlated with and amplified by the processes and byproducts of capitalism. In fact, you might say that capitalism is in many respects a mental illness generating system – and if we are serious about tackling not only the effects of mental distress and illness, but also their causes and origins, we need to look more closely, more precisely, and more analytically at the nature of the political and economic womb out of which they emerge, and how psychology is fundamentally interwoven with every aspect of it.  A wide array of topics have contributed a small portion to environments college kids today have grown up in forming them into being susceptible to anxiety and depression. This brings some understanding to why disorders like anxiety and depression have grown to such staggering amounts countrywide.” (Tweedy, 2017)

External factors like: workaholic parents, a population focused toward capitalism, constant consumerism, the inherent fear of seeking help for mental health problems and over-parenting running rampant in society today, all were the building blocks to produce a cohort of stressed out college kids of the 21st century. 

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However external factors aren’t the only variables coming into play when talking about anxiety and depression. Hormonal and biological statistics contribute substantially to the anxieties felt during this stage of life. This can help to explain why American students continue to report high levels of anxiety and depression while in college.

A disease or disorder is something that impedes the ability to perform our daily duties and responsibilities, the absence of ‘ease’ in playing our roles in society. Anxiety and depression get in the way of performing everyday and relatively normal tasks. According to the 2006 American College Health Association Survey, “45 percent of women and 36 percent of men felt so depressed that it was difficult to function”(JED Foundation, 2016). It’s important to keep in mind though, that these statistics are from 2006, before the social media revolution really materialized with the advancement of technology that took place in the early 2000’s. Regardless of the people being less connected than college kids in 2018, it does not deny the fact American students are abnormally anxious and depressed in comparison to other cultures. College aged people, ages 18-24 are in the age range where the onset of many mental health issues appear. It is possible with better mental health monitoring programs being implemented, that more people are being diagnosed with either anxiety or depression because the surveillance of the disorder has improved. In a study titled “College Students: Mental Health Problems and Treatment Considerations” published in 2014, the researchers found that anxiety disorders are most prevalent as they affect “approximately 11.9 % of college students suffering from an anxiety disorder” and another “7 to 9% experiencing complications from depression” (Pedrelli, Paola et al. 2014).

Students, ages 18-24 are also the years in a humans life where a lot of change is occurring. Constant hormonal and chemical shifts around every corner that can contribute to altered mood states as well. Hilary Silver, M.S.W., a licensed clinical social worker and mental health expert for Campus Calm, can attest to these claims. Campus Calm is an amazing organization which recognizes that young people, women especially, who are incredibly high achieving are undeniably overworked, and overwhelmed. Silver says “students experience many firsts, including new lifestyle, friends, roommates, exposure to new cultures and alternate ways of thinking”(Tartakovsky, 2018). This big change of scenery can send any person’s hormones into a frenzy due to all the new and different stimuli of the environment. If students feel as though they are unprepared to navigate through all these new experiences, they could be exposed to feelings of anxiety and depression trying to make reason of it all. Caffeine and excessive drinking are also two variables presented to college students in mass quantities that can influence the susceptibility of anxiety or depression. According to this 2013 study  assessing the “Caffeine Consumption Patterns and Beliefs of College Freshmen”, states that side effects of excessive caffeine consumption by college students can be attributed to “nervousness, hyperactivity, agitation, anxiety, withdrawal from play and interaction” (Mcilvain, et al. 2013). Adverse effects associated with excessive drinking are also conclusive to depressive symptoms, as alcohol is a depressant rather than a stimulant like caffeine.

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Students who don’t have the adequate skills to cope with the new stressors of college often fall victim to substance use and binge drinking heavily. Binge drinking according to the Addiction Centers of America, can exacerbate the feelings of depression in college students. The excessive drinking can then lead to periodic and worsened drinking practices, to try to escape the depressed feelings.  The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University published a report which found half of all full-time college students binge drink, use prescription or illicit drugs. But, an even scarier statistic is that about 1 out of every 4 college students can adhere to the criteria for a person either dependent or addicted to a substance. These new environments and experiences lead to success and accomplishments, but also to feelings of incompetence and frustration. When students are shot straight out of high school into college, a new world of stimuli awaits them demanding they either bend, or break.  Published in 2005,  Binge : What your college student won’t tell you : Campus life in an age of disconnection and excess.” Barrett Seaman’s purpose is to illustrate how “isolation, sexual confusion, date rape, stress, and emotional problems” all contribute to the mental health of students. These are all valid and veracious reasons that psychotherapy needs to be overtly available and also socially accepted on campuses and even encouraged by the community. It’s conclusive that the majority of college students in this country are dealing with something internally that not many can see, but many can understand and sympathize with.

Those sympathizers are the ones implementing the life saving programs like SBHC or  School Based Health Care and support groups around the country in college campuses to aid students dealing with mental health problems. The wall that fortifies the stigma around mental health disorders often plays a direct role in how many people seek help because of them. Between 2009 and 2015, the amount of students visiting on campus counseling centers rose 30%, and there was not a surplus of kids being admitted to universities at this time. Nelly Spigner a student from the University of Richmond in Virginia says that “It almost seems like they’re setting you up to fail because of the sheer amount of work and amount of classes you have to take at the same time, and how you’re also expected to do so much” (Reilly, 2018). This is a very real reality for a number of college students across the country and due to the elevated levels of student’s anxiety and depression. Universities and public colleges countrywide have been implementing school based health care programs, so students can seek help when they really need it. Considering how much some families and kids pay to attend college, there is understanding for the demand of more accommodating services for mental health issues on campus. Dori Hutchinson, director of services at Boston University’s Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation says “a lot of schools charge $68,000 a year, We should be able to figure out how to attend to their whole personhood for that kind of money” (Reilly, 2018). Colleges all over the country have been doing just that, by implementing programs which attend to the mental health needs of their student bodies, like this one at Virginia Tech. 

“Virginia Tech University has opened several satellite counseling clinics to reach students where they already spend time, stationing one above a local Starbucks and embedding others in the athletic department and graduate student center. Ohio State University added a dozen mental health clinicians during the 2016-17 academic year and has also launched a counseling mobile app that allows students to make an appointment, access breathing exercises, listen to a playlist designed to cheer them up, and contact the clinic in case of an emergency. Pennsylvania State University allocated roughly $700,000 in additional funding for counseling and psychological services in 2017, citing a “dramatic increase” in the demand for care over the past 10 years” (Reilly, 2018),

It is so essential to convey that seeking help for these worries are not to be frowned upon but congratulated and supported. For students to want to help themselves, trust in the healthcare providers and administrators must be sufficient, in order to put their egos out on a limb and receive the proper tools they need to battle their mental health issues.

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 The cost of a college degree in America alone is enough to give anyone a heart attack, especially those who learned nothing about how to handle money in high school. Most kids going into college have no idea what they’re up against in terms of personal debt and emotional turmoil during the process of getting their degree. There are many obvious stressors like the cost of college, work load and balancing a social life and school, but what is there to do about a stressor that is hardly ever talked about as such? Social media, its constant detached distraction, and incessantly inauthentic interaction is detrimental to students mental health in America today.

One out of every five students on college campuses in the United States in this day and age have reported symptoms of depression or anxiety. If someone lives in a student apartment with 4 other roommates, there is more than enough research to suggest at least one of them has experienced symptoms associated to anxiety and depression. It is evident in recent years that social media has played a direct role in influencing how anxious and depressed people become over time. Over the last 20 to 30 years with the advancement in technology and availability of smart phones, there’s no question humans have adapted to incorporate more of it into their everyday lives. When does the infiltration of technology into daily life become too much? The need for immediacy, instant answers and information has created a generation of overcompensated and impatient young adults. The feeling that one “needs” to be connected to social media and other technology outlets has contributed a considerable amount of added stress to students already trying to navigate these new stimuli-rich environments and trying to get their work done. It has been recorded that social media definitely can be correlated to elevated levels of depression. In an article titled,Real-life Closeness of Social Media Contacts and Depressive Symptoms Among University Students,” the researchers concluded that “having no in-person relationship with social media contacts is associated with increased depressive symptoms; however, having close in-person relationships with social media contacts is associated with decreased depressive symptoms.” (Shensa, Ariel, et al 2018). The researchers claim that because contacts over social media are seldom actually known in person, the lack of personal connection attributes to depressive symptoms. Thousands and thousands of college students are constantly glued to their social media sites, and are following countless individuals unknown to them on a personal level. The extended reach of instagram influencers and celebrity advertisements have been what has caused such an addiction to comparison that this generation has to deal with so much more than others have. Depression has been recorded to lead to social isolation and feeling isolated is one of humankind’s biggest, subconscious fears. Feeling isolated from peers, while simultaneously also surrounded by them, can lead to further depression related symptoms and substance abuse as we’ve seen.

A study published in the Journal of Preventive Medicine titled, Social Media Use and Perceived Social Isolation Among Young Adults in the U.S., looked closely into the perceived social isolation caused by social media use in a well rounded sample of participants aged 19-24. The study monitored individuals’ time spent on social media and the frequency social media was being used across a number of public platforms like “Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Vine, Snapchat, and Reddit” (Primack, et al, 2014). The participants who used social media the most were then compared to those who used it the least, and the level of perceived social isolation was undeniably higher within the individuals who had the highest levels of social media usage. The correlation between social media and symptoms of depression can also be explained in another cross sectional study about heightened social media usage associated with depression in college students published in 2016. This study identified findings of many different pieces of literature on this matter, explaining that too much exposure to idolized representations of peers on social media brings about the idea that others are living happier, more abundant and more successful lives; hence, “these envious feelings may lead to a sense of self-inferiority and depression over time.” (Lin, et al. 2016).  The reason this is such a widespread problem in the United States is because this country has more Instagram and Twitter users than any other nation in the world. The most popular age group to access these sites are teens and young adults from 18-24, the same age range kids are in college for. Although many of this generation most likely view social media personalities as positive, studies have shown excessive use of social media, especially connecting with those we have no personal connection to, can play a massive role in elevating depression and self isolation in college students. When people are constantly attached to social media, it can lead to a detachment from reality, and an unhealthy formulation of habits like sitting and mindlessly scrolling for hours. Being connected in person and forming lasting relationships that build enriching communities is how we combat this social media surge sweeping across the country and world. To bring students away from their phones is to save them a considerable amount of stress and sadness associated with social media use.

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What is inevitable to bring sadness and stress to students though, is the monstrous price of college; costing kids both tangible and emotional wealth.  The cost of some public universities can reach as high as $46,000 dollars for just one year of tuition and fees. The average cost of college annually for private institutions is $43,000, while the average for public universities is around $34,000 for out of state students according to the national College Board. These numbers are high, but in comparison to what? Comparison to the national average salary that is. According to the National Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national median average salary doesn’t even break $45,000 dollars a year for a person working a regular 40 hour work week. Many people earn plenty more, and many earn much less, but this begs the question: Why is college for a single academic school year more than what some families bring home to pay the bills and stock the fridge for an entire year? This very question is hard to reason with, as people who can afford college are not the only people who deserve the right to a higher education. Unpaid student loans hit an all time high in December, 2018, when an article written by Bloomberg.com stated there is $1.456 trillion dollars to be paid back to the United States government (Tanzi, 2018). The debt is unavoidable for many who don’t have the money to afford an education but aspire to do so, and who rightfully should have access to an affordable education.  In this study, published in the Journal of the Social Sciences & Medicine in 2015 titled, “Sick of Our Loans: Student Borrowing and the Mental Health of Young Adults in the United States,” which examined the correlation between student loan debt and young adult mental health. It was easy to conclude that wealth of parents is indicative to the mental health of students because those students with wealthy parents will inevitably have less debt; however, those who weren’t born as financially fortunate as others have a harder time affording college. These students are more susceptible to suffer from symptoms of depression and hopelessness, and this cohort of people is undoubtably larger than those who can afford to go to college.  

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College kids are stressed and depressed over the costs and debts accumulating in college but are also anxious about leaving school to enter the workforce. University of Pennsylvania economics professor, Matthew Bidwell, looked into the demand for jobs in the United States and found many graduates are fighting a losing battle. Bidwell uncovered that for nearly all the jobs which require high education degrees (bachelors/masters), almost all of them also require on average two or more years of relevant work experience in the field (Craig, 2018). How can college graduates begin to pay off their immense debts if the jobs they are studying so hard to attain won’t hire them because they have no “real work experience” in the field? Some statistics from GradStaff, a career matching company for recent graduates, states in a survey from May through September of 2016, “Nearly 70 percent of respondents were either unemployed or working in a full-time non-professional job to make ends meet” (LaBombard, 2016). This is a frustrating aspect of the college experience coming to culmination, which simply adds to the chronic stress already dealt with by college students today. Whether it be student loan debt, social media distractions, lack of flexibility in the job market or all the societal implications that construct how we feel, think and behave; students have their work cut out for them emotionally. It is a burden of innumerable size and unfathomable value.

The claim that American society directly connects to anxiety and depression in college students can be supported in depth through careful research stated within this report. It is evident that the environment students grow up in influences their perceptions about mental health and the societal stigmas that come attached to it. Treatment services for mental health issues must become even more widely accepted than they are today; along with how we as a society view mental health issues as a whole. The massive lifestyle shifts and hormonal changes that accompany young adulthood are a perfect domain for anxiety and depression to rule and thrive. College students naturally are attracted to excessive alcohol binging and caffeine consumption through cultural norms confronted on campuses nationwide, which can increase the chances of university students developing depression and anxiety.  College students don’t see a difference between staying up all night studying or staying up all night drinking, both of which are incredibly unhealthy for their mental stability. Growing up in households with either too much parenting or not enough, contributes to the future mental health of those children, as we’ve seen by the ‘helicopter’ parents and workaholics. Excessive social media use in U.S. society has been seen to have curated widespread dissatisfaction with life, social isolation and inevitable symptoms of depression. The incessant advertisements of our consumerist society have infiltrated the daily lives of mostly everyone who owns a smart phone and has become yet another depressing and anxiety stimulating distraction. Although the monumental costs of college have now developed into a social norm, it, too, has inevitably matured into a key player in students’ levels of anxiety and depression. The overworked and overcompensated generation of young people can be seen as at a high risk for suicide as well, as it is the second leading cause of death among college students in this country.  In retrospect, through all the research and all of the comparison, it is simple to make a firm determination about how college kids around the country are very clearly suffering from anxiety and depression due to how United States’ society has been structured around them. 

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