The APA’s latest study on stress suggests that Americans are not doing too well1. The average stress level among American adults is 20% higher than the global average, making it one of the most stressed nations in the world. 

Over half of Americans (55%) are worried every single day about such things as medical issues, discrimination, and the war in Ukraine. However, the most significant sources of stress revolve around money.

But does this hold true for college-aged students?

The APA says yes. Of those 18 to 25, 82% find money to be the biggest source of stress. The same age group also worries about the economy (62%) and housing (58%).

The numbers for money change relatively little for those between 26 and 43 (down to 81%) with an increase in both economic (76%) and housing (68%) worries.

Unfortunately, simply being in debt can cause stress and anxiety that affects students across the many facets of their lives2.

Poor Money Management Behaviors 

A debt-by-generation study found that 85.2% of Gen Z have non-mortgage debt with a median balance of $9,1763. This includes credit cards, auto loans, student loan debt, and other personal loans.

For these students, it is not uncommon to handle the problem by ignoring it. 

In addition to avoiding phone calls and refusing to open bills, students are also likely to:

  • Open new credit cards as credit cards reach the limit
  • Use cash advances on one credit card to pay off another
  • Make minimum monthly payments

Because students have no idea how much they owe, they cannot make a good plan to reduce their debt. Also, because they are in denial, they are more likely to assume that everyone has the same problems.

Debt denial, and the associated behaviors, lead to even more debt as late fees and interest charges are added to the balance. 

Plus, ignoring the problem doesn’t make it go away. Students are still aware of the issue and this awareness leads to stress and problems in other areas of their life.

Medical Problems

The National Debt Relief survey found that those with financial stress develop sleep issues, losing more than 200 hours of sleep per year. Unfortunately, this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to physical problems associated with financial stress. 

Other problems include4:

  • Cancer
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Eating disorders
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Migraines
  • Psoriasis
  • Stomach problems
  • Substance abuse

A UPCEA study found that one-third of students who dropped out of college did so because of personal reasons, one of which was poor health5.

Lack of Self Care 

The National Debt Relief survey found that financially stressed individuals are less likely to take care of themselves.

For example, when experiencing financial stress, students will be less likely to:

  • Participate in activities they enjoy
  • Use time away from school to relax
  • Go on a date with a significant other
  • Attend a family function such as a wedding

Students are also more likely to eat poorly, stop exercising, and self-medicate with alcohol and recreational drugs. The 2022 APA study found that 40% of Gen Z chose to sleep in over exercise almost three to one.

Not Meeting Major Milestones 

As students leave college with both credit card and student loan debt, they will be less likely to meet major milestones. Because of the pandemic, many more Gen Z were plunged into financial stress.

A Bankrate survey6 found that this led to a reduction in meeting the following milestones:

  • Pursuing career Advancement (21%)
  • Furthering education (21%)
  • Getting married (14%)

Student Financial Wellness Helps

The UPCEA study found that 42% of college dropouts are due to financial reasons.

Thankfully, the National Debt Relief study discovered that people want help. Of those surveyed, 75% want the tools and resources to help them get out of debt and achieve financial health.

That’s where a student financial wellness program comes in.

Learn More: How Financial Wellness Programs Prevent College Dropouts

iGrad offers information, skills training, tips, tools, and resources that can help students get out and stay out of debt. Doing so will decrease their stress levels and all the associated negative responses. 

Students using iGrad will learn about:

  • Budgeting
  • Saving
  • Student Loans
  • Other financial aid
  • Debt reduction

To learn how iGrad can reduce the impact of debt on your college students, see what other universities are doing to improve the financial literacy of their students.



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