College today isn't the rollicking 'Animal House' good time that a lot of Baby Boomers remember, but UTSA Professor Sara Oswalt says before older people start calling today's college kids 'snowflakes,' they need to realize the much larger levels of stress the students today are under, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
A research paper by Dr. Oswalt shows that as many as one third of the nation's undergraduates suffer from some form of mental stress, which in many cases shows up in depression, anxiety disorder, and even thoughts of suicide.
She says there are far more stressors on college kids today than there were in the 20th Century.
"Increased isolation, increased financial demands that come with college, and the stress that comes with that," she says.
And she says the students who are attending college today are different too, and those changes are also contributing to the stress levels.
"People are working, they may be a parent, they may have multiple responsibilities," she said, adding that more students today come from low income or immigrant backgrounds, and many are the first in their families to attend college or even to leave their hometown.
She also cites the fact that the stakes are higher today. In the seventies and eighties, a person who didn't succeed at college or in getting a professional certification could fall back on any number of high wage jobs that didn't require a degree, something which isn't the case any more.
She says the stress the young people are facing today manifest themselves in behaviors ranging from loss of sleep to drug and alcohol addiction to lashing out. It is clearly, she says, a path to failure to experience stress while in college.
She concedes that unlike in the last several decades, some of the stigmas involving mental health have been removed, meaning today's students may feel more open to discussing the challenges they face.
So what can be done about it? Dr. Oswalt says there is a lot that the college community can do.
"If we're having assignments as a university which are due at 2AM, we are sending a message that you should be up until 2AM doing that assignment."