Stressed, bored, sober and selfish

February 18, 2000

Stress continues to rise among American students, especially females, says a national survey. Researchers blame a faster lifestyle, high expectations and the need to work part-time to pay tuition fees.

About a third of all students - the highest number since the annual survey began in 1965 - said they felt "overwhelmed by all I have to do". Female students reported suffering from stress at a rate nearly double that of men.

"Students feel more competition, they're applying to more colleges than ever before, they're worried about having to work during college," said Linda J. Sax, director of the survey and a professor at the University of California at Los Angeles.

Nearly 40 per cent of women said they frequently felt overwhelmed, compared with 20 per cent of men. Dr Sax said this might be explained by other results, including the fact that 70 per cent of women worry they might not have enough money to pay tuition, compared with 57 per cent of men.

The survey of 364,546 first-year students also found that a quarter of freshmen expect to have to work full-time while in college.

Female students also reported that they spend more time studying, doing volunteer work and participating in student clubs. Men are more likely to play sports, watch television, attend parties and play video games.

Many seem uninterested in academic work. Some 40 per cent of freshmen report feeling "bored in class", while 17 per cent said they studied less than one hour a week.

Despite this, grades seem to be rising, leading to suspicions of "grade inflation". A record 34 per cent of freshmen said they finished high school with an A grade average, compared with 13 per cent in 1969.

The survey found that beer and cigarettes are losing their popularity. Just over half of first-years say they drink beer frequently or occasionally, the lowest level in 34 years. The percentage of students who smoke cigarettes fell for the second consecutive year, to 14 per cent, after a decade-long increase.

On the other hand, the percentage of students who said it was important or essential to influence social values and to help "others who are in difficulty" fell to 36 per cent, the lowest point in 14 years.

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