SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Urgent measures need to be taken after a survey of 28,000 college and university students showed 16% are heavy drinkers and 50% suffer from severe stress and anxiety, education minister Ingrid van Engelshoven has told MPs.
The research, commissioned by the ministry, was carried out at 15 higher education establishments, and is the first large survey to be carried out into the mental state of the country’s students.
It found nearly all (97%) of students experience stress, because of both the pressure of work and the coronavirus crisis. Half said they had psychiatric problems and 25% were tired of life.
Three-quarters of the students in the survey, carried out during the lockdown, said they were lonely. The researchers said that the high number of students – 16% – who are problem drinkers is a cause for concern.
Four in 10 said that it is accepted within their group of friends to have 10 or more alcoholic drinks on a night out. Men and students living alone are more likely to be heavy drinkers, the research showed.
Some 13% of the respondents said they had used ecstasy in the past year and 9% had taken laughing gas. ‘During the coronavirus crisis, I spoke to many students who indicated that they suffered from loneliness, stress and pressure,’ Van Engelshoven said.
‘So, the results of the survey are cause for concern.’ Work has already started on trying to improve mental health services for students, she said. However, she added, ‘the stress and pressure on students comes from more than just education.
Their financial situation and housing and job prospects also play a role. So, the approach needs to be wider.’