Ask a U.S. college student what they're most concerned about and their answer is likely to often involve the crushing weight of their student debt. That's particularly troubling considering a new study has found that students who experience "financial difficulties and worry about debt have a higher chance of suffering from depression and alcohol dependency," reported the United Kingdom news outlet the Independent.
Student loan debt is a crisis in the U.S. Some 40 million Americans are in some kind of student loan debt. Worries over this sort of impending financial struggle could lead to stress, depression and drinking, which can, in turn, feed off one another to make all the problems worse.
The research was conducted by the University of Southampton and Solent NHS Trust and asked 400 first-year undergraduate students across the U.K. to assess their financial status, including things like recent difficulties, family affluence and attitudes toward their finances. The study found signs of anxiety and alcoholism got more pronounced for those who struggled to pay the bills. Importantly for U.S. students who have taken out loans, those students worried about graduate debt saw higher levels of stress and depression, according to the research.
The issues of financial concerns and problem drinking apparently often work in concert to make one another worse. "The findings suggest a vicious cycle whereby anxiety and problem drinking exacerbate financial difficulties, which then go on to increase anxiety and alcohol intake," wrote Dr. Thomas Richardson, who led the study that was published online in the Community Mental Health Journal, via AOL. "Interventions which tackle both difficulties at the same time are therefore most likely to be effective."
Richardson suggested working with students who are worried about their finances and teaching them the best ways to cope with the rising cost of tuition. "We might not be able to change how much debt students are in, but we can work with them to help them manage their finances and worries about money in order to mitigate the impact of these worries on mental health," he said, via the Independent.