Mental health difficulties peak in the second year of university, study finds
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Anxiety, drug use and thoughts of self-harm are more common in second and third year students, a study has found.
Image courtesy of PxhereIn the largest ever mental health study conducted on university students, statistics show that loneliness and substance misuse peaks in second year. The Insight Network, a private healthcare provider, surveyed 37,654 students from 140 universities across the UK. The report found that students experience 'trigger points' when they first start university. Moreover, psychological difficulties are heightened at the start of the second year. Persistent self-harm is reportedly highest in second-year students, with 12.1% saying they thought about it often or all the time, compared to 9.2% of first years. Furthermore, loneliness peaks in the second year and remains high in the third year of university. This could be down to the fact that social events that allow students to meet others easily, such as freshers week, are geared towards first years. In addition, students tend to focus more on studies in the second and third year, as opposed to the first year where grades often count for very little towards the overall degree grade. 30.7% of first years report feeling lonely at university compared to 40.4% of second years and 39.6% of third-year students. The level of loneliness for students that do a four-year or longer degree course has not been measured. In addition, freshers are the least likely group to report a suspected mental health issues - which could account for the fact that reports of mental health difficulties are lowest amongst first years. Again, first years fare better when it comes to anxiety, which increases significantly for second years. Out of the students surveyed, 44.7% admitted to using alcohol or recreational drugs as coping mechanisms, with 9.5% using them often or all the time. Dr Stephen Pereira of the Insight Network says that students "navigating the transition into second and third year report the highest rates of anxiety, loneliness, substance misuse" as opposed to young people first starting university. "Some of the support interventions and policies currently directed at first year students - including freshers' activities, provision of halls of residences, and promotion of available services - should be equally directed at students in later years," he says. "Support should also consider the specific stressors of students at this point in their education." Feature image courtesy of Pxhere
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