The transition from school to college is considered an exciting time for many youngsters. However, this period can also be quite stressful, particularly for those who will live independently for the first time. Moreover, academic pressure, peer pressure and unexpected or adverse situations can act as additional stressors, affecting the mental health of students.
A recent study, led by a researcher from the University of Arkansas (U of A), investigated the types of recreational activities undertaken by emerging adult college students, whether they participated in such activities alone or with others, and the affect such involvement had on their mental health. The findings, published in the journal Leisure Studies in December 2017, showed that social leisure engagement could directly and indirectly benefit the mental health and well-being of such students.
“Social leisure engagement is the notion that you are socializing with other people while you are taking part in recreational activities,” said James M. Duncan, currently an instructor at the Dale Bumpers College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences at the U of A and a doctoral graduate of Florida State University (FSU). According to Duncan and other FSU doctoral graduates and faculty, “leisure engagement” could meaningfully impact the manner in which emerging adults coped with adverse situations.
Learning independence and autonomy does not mean going it alone
Studies involving college students have shown that academic stress gives rise to negative emotions, whereas engagement in leisure activities is associated with positive emotions. Past research also indicated that the well-being of college students is declining. Weekly variations in leisure allocation was found to be related to fluctuations in their emotional well-being.
Many emerging adults mistakenly consider independence and autonomy to mean making their own way through college and even otherwise. Engaging in activities with others, and forming emotional connections and bonds during these activities, can profoundly impact their ability to handle their mental health. Duncan said that learning to be independent and autonomous does not mean that students “have to go it alone.” Although emerging adults may consider it fun to participate in activities by themselves, they should still make an attempt to “have fun in the company of others.”
The researchers surveyed the frequency of leisure engagement among 270 college students aged between 18 and 25 years. They were asked to self-asses their perceptions of peer support and also rate their perceptions of depressive symptoms. It was found that depressive symptoms were significantly lower among students with high levels of leisure. Moreover, students with high levels of leisure also experienced low levels of student depression indirectly due to high levels of peer social support.
Dealing with mental health of college students
According to data from the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), an estimated 7.6 million American young adults aged 18 to 25 (22.1 percent of the age group) had any mental illness (AMI), while nearly 2 million young adults had serious mental illness (SMI). During 2016, 4.4 million young adults (12.9 percent) used mental health services. Moreover, the 2016 annual report of the Center for Collegiate Mental Health (CCMH) stated that anxiety, depression and stress were the three concerns with the highest frequency among college students, while anxiety and depression were the top two concerns.
The 2017 National College Health Assessment survey showed that anxiety and depression impacted the academic performance of 24.2 percent and 15.9 percent students, respectively. It also highlighted that 62.2 students felt lonely at any time during the past year and 51.1 percent felt that things were hopeless. Feelings of overwhelming anxiety were reported by 60.8 percent students, while 39.1 percent found it difficult to function due to high levels of depression.
Untreated mental illnesses can lead to severe impairments among teens and young adults. If you know someone suffering from mental illnesses, White River Academy can help. Located in Delta, Utah, it is one of the leading therapeutic boarding schools in the United States to offer evidence-based treatment. Call our 24/7 helpline or chat online with one of our representatives to know more about the best boarding schools for troubled youth.