What worries university students?


The world is transforming at a dizzying pace, presenting challenges such as an evolving labor market, climate change or the depletion of natural resources. Added to these challenges are more recent ones, such as the energy and economic crisis derived from the covid-19 pandemic and the invasion of Ukraine.

For millennials (born between 1983 and 1994) and z-generations (born between 1995 and 2002), their main concerns at the global level include several critical areas, as reflected in several relevant surveys and studies :

  1. Increasing cost of living : Many struggle to have a home and be able to cover the expenses derived from shopping baskets and other basic services.
  2. Unemployment and job insecurity : Finding a stable, well-paid job is difficult, which generates stress and anxiety.
  3. Mental health : The pandemic, economic stress and other factors have increased mental health problems among young people.
  4. Climate change : Young people are concerned about the future of the planet and the lack of action to combat climate change.
  5. Interpersonal relationships and harassment : Six in ten millennials and half of those belonging to generation Z have experienced some type of workplace harassment, whether in the form of inappropriate messages, microaggressions or discrimination.
  6. Impact of the pandemic on education : The pandemic interrupted the training they were receiving and has created difficulties for students.

The concerns of Spanish university students

To find out the level of concern among students and its impact on academic performance, the authors of this article conducted a survey of around 5,000 young people from various Spanish universities between the ages of 17 and 25. They were asked about their level of concern using a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 means “not at all concerned” and 5 means “very concerned.”

The results of this research, recently published in an article , reveal that young Spanish university students are very concerned about the employment situation (average 4.13 out of 5), the conflict in Ukraine (average 4.08 out of 5), mental health (average 4.06 out of 5), 5) and environmental problems (average 3.93 out of 5).

Although sexual harassment is the issue that worries people the least on the list (average 3.03 out of 5), the great variability in the responses is notable (people who are very concerned about it versus others who are not at all concerned about it).

Women are more worried than men

Considering the gender of the student, women show more concern than men in all the issues raised (environmental, social and economic), except regarding the energy crisis.

Sexual harassment worries men less, while they, for their part, are more worried than women about the employment situation and the consequences of the war in Ukraine.

Among older students, the main concerns revolve around rising prices and the employment situation.

Do worries affect academic performance?

These problems can have a negative impact on the academic performance of students . Asked how much they consider that each of these problems negatively affects their academic performance, all students perceive that rising prices affect their academic performance, while women and older young people consider themselves especially vulnerable to the adverse effects. of the employment situation and mental health.

For women, the second most influential factor, after price increases, is their employment situation, while for men it is their mental health. Men do not find that sexual harassment impacts their academic performance, while women do.

The existence of these concerns does not have to be problematic in itself, but rather the perception of inability to face them. According to a study , students who feel like they can’t manage their worries are more likely to experience serious mental health problems, which in turn affects their academic performance and overall well-being.

The concerns mentioned, such as the employment situation, rising prices, war and environmental problems, are closely linked to the mental well-being of young people . The OECD highlights that economic and employment uncertainty can generate high levels of stress and anxiety, affecting the mental health of students. The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated these problems , increasing anxiety and depression among college students and affecting academic performance .

Support from institutions

Taking into account the role of these concerns in student life and the likelihood of academic and personal success is important when formulating educational policies.

Many universities have already launched services to ensure the well-being of students on multiple levels, including emotional, physical, social, intellectual and financial dimensions. For example, the University of Murcia has the free OPE program ( Free Psychological Guidance for Students ) with which it helps those people who have difficulties both personally and family-wise and in their studies.

The Complutense University of Madrid has the PsiCall UCM service to offer immediate psychological care free of charge for all students and residents of its Residence Halls, accessible via email and telephone.

Other measures that can promote the well-being of university students are: supporting the adaptation processes both to university life in the first years and to the labor market in the last, organizing extracurricular activities, promoting gender equality and promoting a safe and secure university campus. inclusive and incorporate group work on sustainability to encourage collaboration, exchange of ideas and social responsibility among students.

Author Bios: Úrsula Faura Martínez is a PDI Quantitative Methods for Economics and Business, Javier Cifuentes Faura is a Professor and Researcher Economics and Business and Matilde Lafuente Lechuga is Professor of Mathematics Applied to Economics and Business all at the University of Murcia