I didn't know this, but the New York Times reports this morning that the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA does an annual survey of incoming college freshmen. The survey asks students for their own estimation of their emotional health, and that has been dropping for years. Then, in this year's report, it took another sharp turn for the worse. The graph above shows the percentage of students reporting "above average" or "highest 10%" as to their emotional health.
The Times adds a graphic that breaks it out by gender, and looks also at the number of students reporting being "overwhelmed" in high school, which is also close to breaking new highs:
Powerpoint has a graph looking at parental unemployment, which is sharply up:
However, clearly student self-reported emotional health has been declining steadily for decades. This quote from the NYT story offers a clue:
Students know their generation is likely to be less successful than their parents’, so they feel more pressure to succeed than in the past,” said Jason Ebbeling, director of residential education at Southern Oregon University. “These days, students worry that even with a college degree they won’t find a job that pays more than minimum wage, so even at 15 or 16 they’re thinking they’ll need to get into an M.B.A. program or Ph.D. program.Indeed, if we look at this graph, it's very telling:
This makes sense in terms of broader trends in the US economy. With an employment population ratio that's been sliding for years, especially amongst the uneducated, and the trends of technology and globalization that drive that showing no immediate signs of retrenchment, college is more than ever a lifeline. Fail to get a degree, and prospects are getting more miserable by the year. Succeed, and you at least have a shot at a middle class life.
Students know this, and the scramble to get into college and do well is getting more serious, and more stressful, with each passing decade.