Student Debt Concerns Cause Depression, Alcohol Addiction, New Research Finds | The independent

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Students who are struggling financially and worried about debt are more likely to suffer from depression and alcohol addiction, new research shows.

Conducted by the University of Southampton and the Solent NHS Trust, the study showed that symptoms of anxiety and alcoholism worsened over time for those who struggled to pay the bills, while those who were more stressed by finance debt graduates had higher levels of stress and depression.

The study asked more than 400 undergraduates from across the UK to rate a range of financial factors, including family wealth, recent financial difficulties and attitudes towards their finances at four points in their life. first year, allowing researchers to examine which came first: financial hardship or poor mental health.

The study also found that students who had considered not going to college or had considered dropping out for financial reasons had a greater deterioration in their mental health over time.

Study director and visiting scholar at the University of Southampton, Dr Thomas Richardson, described how the findings suggest “a vicious cycle” in which anxiety and problems with alcohol use “exacerbate financial difficulties “, which then increase anxiety and alcohol consumption. He said: “Interventions that tackle both challenges at the same time are therefore the most likely to be effective.”

An occupational therapy student told researchers how he was forced to drop out of college due to depression and his inability to support himself financially. He said: “When I was not very well, I couldn’t work part-time, so I couldn’t supplement my income at university. Having financial difficulties increased my daily stress levels and something usually had to give – it was usually my college education. It was a vicious cycle. ”

Students and the wider higher education community have already spoken out and campaigned against rising university costs as tuition fees rise, maintenance grants are removed, and maintenance grants are removed. conservatives are retrospectively increasing student loan repayments.

According to the Sutton Trust, English graduates leave university with significantly higher debt levels than any other English-speaking country.

Dr Richardson, who has trained staff at UK universities on debt and mental health, acknowledged how entering university can be “a stressful and intimidating time” for young people where finances can be a source of stress. of concern. He said: “We may not be able to change the amount of student debt, but we can work with them to help them manage their finances and money worries to lessen the impact of those worries. on mental health. ”

Elaine Hindal, CEO of Drinkaware, the alcohol education charity, acknowledged that alcohol can have a temporary positive impact on mood, but warned: “Regular and heavy drinking can have serious effects. long-term implications for student mental health.

She continued, “Alcohol is a depressant and can upset the delicate balance of chemicals that affect mood. This can lead to increased anxiety and stress, and even depression. ”

The increase in mental health problems among students is a growing problem in the UK and has been widely reported in recent months. According to a report written for the rector of York University in May, comparing 2014 to 2015, 80% of UK universities pointed to a noticeable increase in complex mental health crises among their student body.

According to the numbers of ambulance calls – from January 1 to February 8, 2016 only – of the 24 emergency calls received by the university, half concerned attempted self-harm or suicide. Last year, 43 of 134 emergency calls were for attempted self-harm or suicide.

A staggering 63% of students also told student loan lender Future Finance that they worry about their finances all the time or very often, which is expected to increase as tuition increases. .

Shortly after this investigation, ONS figures revealed that the number of student suicides in England and Wales had reached its highest level since 2007; there were 130 suicides among full-time students from both countries aged 18 and over in 2014, with the number significantly higher among men (97). In 2007, there were 75 suicides.

Ulster professor Siobhan O’Neill described at a wellness conference in June that student life today is “full of loneliness and anxiety,” so that it addressed the problems of self-harm, alcohol and suicide, presenting, for the first time, findings from a study of 355 suicides among young people under 25 in Northern Ireland.

She told the conference that young people who die by suicide are “somewhat different” from older age groups, and explained: “More than half will have already made an attempt; about 64% of men will have consumed alcohol by the time of death, and a third of women who commit suicide in this group are female students.

Student funding site, Save the Student, also recently revealed how students are being ‘cheated’ by the UK financial system as they scramble to find an extra £ 3,000 a year amid skyrocketing costs of life, which causes desperate students to gamble and sell second-hand underwear and laughing gas to make ends meet.

If you are a student and feel that you need help or support during your studies, contact the student services of your university or the counseling service of the student union. You can also read more about mental health support on Student Minds and Drinkaware

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