Are College Students More Stressed Out Than Ever? (qSample Study)

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity.

This famous quote by Charles Dickens, from A Tale of Two Cities, has been applied to many periods and demographics of western society. It surely seems appropriate to our college days—that intense period of personality formation and testing that paves the way for so many futures.

To qSample, understanding college students (and millennials) is vital; it is one of our propriety panels that serves many of our clients. Our Campus Universe initiative is utilized for varied studies from both academics and businesses. After all, Millennials are expected to reach $200 billion in spending by 2017, with a total of more than $1.4 trillion in spending power. It will be the largest consumer generation in U.S. history. Beyond buyer muscle, today’s young adults will be our politicians, celebrities (beyond social media), and parents.

And right now they appear to be stressed out in their college role.


The Worst of Times?


Our recent study found that 65% of college students admit to being extremely stressed out during the semester/quarter. But what else is new, right? Or is it perhaps really new?

To find out, here are some of the other takeaways from the study conducted in early July, with a sample of more than 300 respondents:

When it comes to eating out for lunch, only 31% of respondents said this happened on a daily basis. 39% said they ate off campus once or twice a week, with 22% eating off campus once or twice a month. 15% claimed they never visited restaurants while the semester was in full swing.

Outside of leisurely eating, another tell-tale sign of college students coping with stress is the fuel intake that assists in managing limited time: caffeine. When asked about their daily consumption of caffeine (coffee, energy drinks, pills, etc.), this was the breakdown:

–  1-2 cups/doses: 52%
–  3-4 cups/doses: 15%
–  5+ cups/doses: 3%
–  Don’t consume caffeine 30%

Considering that the national coffee intake of the average adult is 3 to 4 cups a day, one could gather that college students are not exactly desperate for that extra energy to get an edge on daily tasks.

Furthermore, there exists the trope that college students play video games to manage stress, but that also doesn’t seem to be apparent. The study found that 56% of college students don’t play video games at all. Only five percent admitted to playing video games on a daily basis, with 38% playing a handful of times a month.


The Best of Times?


As for getting rest, college students seem to be enjoying enough of that in order to deal with higher education. 74% stated they get 5-7 hours of sleep a night, although only 15% are enjoying the classic eight hours of sleep. But the characteristic sleep-deprivation known in universities looks absent: only ten percent stated they get 2-4 hours a night.

The idea of being tied to chains to academia is also not present. 36% of college students admitted to going to see friends or family at least once a day, while 20% enjoy social events once or twice a week, and 28% are social once or twice a month. Only 16% find themselves only visiting friends or family during holidays or between semesters/quarters.

From this preliminary analysis of the study, it appears that college students are no more stressed out than older generations and today’s workforce. Perspective is everything, as they say. Being in the belly of the academic beast has always seemed like “the worst of time.” That is until sleep, friendship, and good food changes that to the “best of times.”

Social media seems to be a “best of times” aspect, a way to decompress for anyone in society. The study found these are the preferred social media channels for college students:

1. Facebook: 50%
2. Instagram: 22%
3. Snapchat: 12%
4. Twitter: 6%
5. Pinterest: 2%
6. LinkedIn: 2%

One can easily assume that the LinkedIn percentage will rise once they’re done with college…


The Age of Wisdom or Foolishness?


A last and interesting takeaway from the study is the preferred apps of college students during the semester/quarter: the smartphone camera app (25%). This could enforce the notion that college students are embedded in the Me, Me, Me Generation—that snide term branded to Millennials.

On the other hand, the second favorite app for college students was the weather app (24%). This may indicate they have the same preoccupation as those in the job pool as they negotiate the day. This is enforced by how map apps like Google Maps are in third (18%). They have places to go and weather to deal with.

Wherever they go, college students will definitely remember their “best/worst times” that is college, with both the belief and incredulity.

For those of us reminiscing about our college days, this is what we might be thinking right now: Where in the Dickens did all the time go?

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