Student stress & depression

Student life has many benefits, but it also imposes inevitable stresses. For those who are already battling depression or have an existing vulnerability to it, these stresses can trigger anxiety and episodes of depression.

Transitions and changes

Becoming a student, whatever your age or background, involves the psychological and practical challenges posed by some or all of the following transitions:

  • Adolescence → Adulthood
  • Family home → Student accommodation
  • Working identity → Mature-student identity
  • Certainty & familiarity → Unknown territory
  • Home country/language → New culture/language
  • Relative financial security → Debt and financial strain
  • Familiar friends → New social environment and people

Culture shock

It is well known that any such transition or change, however positive, entails a certain amount of stress. Indeed, for some students – especially international students – these changes can add up to what is known as ‘culture shock’. This means the disorienting effect of suddenly having to negotiate the world without many of the familiar cues, symbols, customs, values or even language. This can be exciting, but also profoundly stressful and anxiety-provoking.

Stress points

Particular stress points occur at the beginnings and ends of academic years, especially at the start and towards the end of the academic year. These times of increased stress can represent a tipping point when coping resources can become overwhelmed – a recent study* found that student suicides more commonly occur at these times. Another earlier study showed that financial stress was the most significant factor in triggering depression at university. The current financial stresses on students are significantly greater than they were at the time of the study!

Common student issues and problems include study issues, money worries, relationships, housing, family pressures, and culture and identity. Check out our Student Issues articles for more on these and other common student issues.