Four statistics on the UK student mental health crisis

Student life has always been hard – leaving home, coping with academic demands, money worries and social changes can feel overwhelming. But the number of students reporting mental health problems has grown rapidly in recent years. While an increased awareness of mental health issues is likely to have contributed to this, rising debt levels are also a contributing factor. Here we look at some of the statistics that sum up the student mental health crisis in the UK.

Two thirds of UK students will never pay off debt

A 2016 report by the Financial Times estimated that the majority of UK students will never manage to pay back the cost of their education. When tuition fees increased that same year, student loan debt rose by £12.6bn. Paying back debt for the entirety of their working lives places graduates at a greater disadvantage when it comes to getting onto the housing ladder. It could also lead to poorer general quality of life and higher stress levels.

One in four report a mental health problem

A 2016 study by YouGov found that one in four students describe themselves as having a mental health problem. And 47% of those say they find day-to-day tasks difficult as a result, with 4% stating they can’t complete even simple tasks.

Female students are more likely to report mental health problems than males, but the most at-risk group is LGBT students, 45% of whom reported having a mental health problem.

Studying, leaving home, isolation and debt are key concerns

A 2017 survey by accommodation provider UPP found that 87% of first year students struggle to cope with social or academic aspects of student life. The top area of concern was the stress of studying, with almost 60% reporting difficulty coping with workload. Other key concerns were isolation (44%), working while studying (37%), financial worries (36%) and independent living (22%).

Student suicides are at an all time high

Last September, the thinktank IPPR reported that a record 134 students ended their own lives in 2015. And in the same year, a record number of students dropped out of university due to mental health problems. Rising debt levels were thought to be a key factor in the alarming rise.

Mark Salter, a spokesman for the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “We know that the government needs to do much more to stop people reaching the level of desperation where they take their own lives. Suicide is preventable … without proper resourcing and funding, we will not reduce suicide in England”.

Help for students is available from a number of sources. For information and signposting, visit NHS Choices.

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