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Andrew Mascad looks at the impact student debt has on the mental health of students across the world.

Regarding recent surveys, like Intelligent Environment’s one in UK and University of South Carolina’s one in the US, industry experts warn that the higher education system is becoming increasingly unaffordable, forcing students to take loans they may never be able to pay off, and being a main concern for mental health and students wellbeing.

‘People assume students spend their money on nights out, but I regularly have to choose not to go out, so I can buy food. I’ve also had to miss classes and delay assignments when shifts become available and I have to take them when I can’ states a University of Manchester’s student.

Students don’t only have to restrain their social lives but also modify their eating patterns, getting food they can buy in bulk, like rice or peas.

The top three items student said they spend their money on were rent (78 per cent), food (69 per cent) and utility bills (47 per cent), with the average student loan fund running dry by the sixth week of term. So, what do they do when they run out of money?

According to the surveys, 65 per cent turn to parents or other family members, 58 per cent rely on their student overdrafts, 27 per cent dip into their savings, 9 per cent take out payday loans and 6 per cent incur further debts on credit cards.

Debt can have a devastating effect on people, impacting everything from exam results to relationships with partners, family and friends.

According to an article by Melody Wilding, some studies have even found the mental stress of student debt closely mirrors the stages of grief:

– In the denial stage, you want nothing more than to bury your head in the sand and pretend your student loans don’t exist.

– Next might come anger, however irrational. You might feel angry at your school, your lender, society and even yourself for taking out these loans in the first place.

– You might experience feelings of bargaining, promising yourself you’ll never take out a loan ever again. If only you could win the lottery so you could just quit working, period.

– Then comes depression, that feeling of pure defeat. I’ll never get out of debt anyway, you tell yourself, so what’s the point? Why even keep working hard at my job if the money I make just goes straight to paying back my debt?

While a change in the cost of education and debt depends on macroeconomic factors and political decisions, there are practical issues that can be addressed by some of the participants of the system, like advice from the banks on money spending habits and the provision of digital tools to improve student’s relationship with money.

Debt can have a devastating effect on people, impacting everything from exam results to relationships with partners, family and friends.

Banks need to adapt and provide students with the digital tools to improve their relationship with money.

On the bright side, and focusing specifically on mental health, some research shows that college is still a good investment, and for many, the best hope for future success.

And though loans could potentially be bad for during early adulthood, other studies have found higher levels of education may lead to better self-reported mental and physical health in the long run.

There have also been studies that relate stress to social background, showing that poorer students who are able to attend college, an accomplishment more difficult to achieve for many students in lower-income brackets, possess personality traits that may make it easier for them to deal with the strain of student loans, having developed a future orientated vision and a high motivation attitude.

Nevertheless, it still stands that student debt can have a serious impact on mental health, and is not something that should be treated lightly by the incoming government. We must remember the impact policies can have on the mental health of students across the country and from different socio-economic backgrounds.


Has student debt had an impact on your mental health? Let us know.

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