High school seniors and first-year college students are spending less time with friends, studying more and feeling more depressed than ever, according to a new poll by the Cooperative Institutional Research Program at UCLA.
Nearly 10 percent of first-year college students reported “frequently” feeling depressed, a record high in the poll that has been conducted every year since 1987.
The number of students who reported spending 16 hours or more per week socializing with friends declined from 37.9 percent in 1987 to 18 percent in 2014. Students who reported socializing fewer than five hours per week increased from 17 percent to 38 percent. The number of students who socialized 6-15 hours per week has held steady between 40 and 45 percent.
It’s difficult to pinpoint how the socializing and depression trends may be related, but Kevin Eagan, one of the researchers who conducted the poll, pointed out that students are socializing less and studying more.
“In 2010, 65 percent of students said they studied more than 3 hours per week, with 17.5 percent of students saying they studied more than 11 hours per week. In 2014, 70 percent of students said they spent more than 3 hours studying per week, with 21.7 percent reporting that they studied more than 11 hours per week,” Eagan told Inside Higher Ed.
“That's signaling that students are taking their senior year (of high school) more seriously,” Eagan continued. “But we’re also seeing an increased proportion of students telling us that they are frequently depressed and about one-third saying they are overwhelmed by all they have to do. Students need to find a better balance with respect to academics and social life.”
High schools are taking notice and trying to help students in ways that don’t add to the pressure.
For example, the Palo Alto Weekly reports that the Palo Alto school district is working on plans to reduce high school homework burdens, coordinate tests so they don’t fall on the same day, and carve out time for students to get extra help. Other schools are teaching stress reduction techniques such as mindfulness (meditation) as a way to help students cope with all types of stress, according to the Washington Post.
Marsha Maxwell is an online journalist, writing teacher and PhD student at the University of Utah. She can be reached at [email protected].