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College freshmen at 25-year low in emotional health, study says

Students rating their emotional health revealed the lowest levels since the question was first asked 25 years ago according to a UCLA annual survey of more than 200,000 American college freshman.

The new study highlights the growing concern among educators and physicians about the mental health of American young people. “What it means is that going into college students are already feeling more stress and feeling more overwhelmed and have lower emotional reserves to deal with that stress,” said John H. Pryor, lead author of the report.

This new study is not a surprise to many researchers. A study published in 2000 in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, found that childhood anxiety has been steadily on the rise since the 1950s. Jean M. Twenge, a psychologist at Case Western Reserve University who conducted the study concluded that, “the average American child (today) reports more anxiety than child psychiatric patients did in the 1950s.”

Part of the problem may be that young people are just not getting enough rest. A study of 1,125 students that appeared in the Journal of Adolescent Health in 2009 found a significant level of sleep deprivation among college students. The study found that only 30 percent of students get sufficient sleep. The study also found that stress about school and life keeps 68 percent of students awake at night – 20 percent of them at least once a week. Stress affects the quality of their sleep far more than alcohol, caffeine or late-night electronics use, the study shows. Not only that, more than 60 percent of college students have disturbed sleep-wake patterns and many take drugs and alcohol regularly to help them do one or the other.

Fortunately, many colleges are studying the effects of the Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique on reducing stress in college students—and many more college are offering TM instruction to their students as a stress-prevention/wellness program. A study of nearly 300 students at American University in Washington, DC found that daily TM practice helps young adults decrease psychological stress and increase coping ability.

Here is a 1:33 second video by Josh Goulding. Josh talks about the pressures of being a college freshman at a new school:

Josh Goulding learned the Transcendental Meditation technique as part of the study: “I found that starting college at a school like Georgetown was extremely stressful. You’re changing environments and friends you’ve had for years. It’s a pretty big disruption. And you have much greater responsibilities and pressures in college. Academics are much harder and personal relationships are much more complex. You have to prove yourself in a whole new way with a new set of people, and more is on the line. Practicing TM was a major relief, and as I became less stressed I was better able to manage my work and relationships.”

Stephanie-KorteStephenie Korte, a student at Regis University in Denver, says that TM practice helps with the demands of being a university student: “To sit through a class and actually have the kind of mental functioning that allows me to really listen, understand and participate is critical. I find that TM really helps give me the deep rest and clarity of mind I need. It’s rejuvenates me, and it helps manage my stress levels. There’s still stress in my life, but it doesn’t overwhelm me—it doesn’t take over my life.”