Student Mental Health Statistics UK 2021


What Is Mental Health?

Mental health includes human emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It impacts every aspect of how we interact with the world, including how we feel and act, how we relate to others, and what choices we make. The state of our mental health also raises or lowers the risk of developing numerous physical diseases, including heart disease and diabetes. Our brain health massively influences our day-to-day lives, so it’s essential we look after it.

Although related, mental health and mental illness are not the same thing. Mental health is the general condition of our brain, and mental illness is a dysfunction of the organ that causes a medical disorder.

UK Statistics on Mental Health

NHS survey data has revealed that each year, around 25% of the general adult population in England will experience a mental health issue. Another study found around 1 in 6 people experience common mental health problems every week; this includes conditions like depression and anxiety.

What Percentage of UK Students Have Mental Issues?

Over the last decade, there has been a 450% increase in student mental health declarations. This number is still likely not the full amount, and UCAS acknowledges there is much more to be done to remove the stigma surrounding mental health so people feel confident enough to speak up.

survey also found that student life satisfaction is lower than the general population at 6.5 compared to 7.1 out of ten respectively. There are numerous factors that have contributed to this outcome, all causing students to feel a loss of control. Some of these include:

  • Stressful workload (37% do not have enough time to study, 31% report inconvenient schedules, fast-paced courses, and a heavy workload, and 29% feel as though there are unclear guidelines)
  • Technology
  • Financial difficulties from living expenses, fees, housing prices, and debt (34% of students cannot afford housing costs, and 39% say textbooks are too expensive)
  • Relationships
  • The pandemic
  • Uncertain employability
  • Volatile political, social, and environmental climates

It seems some of the strain on well-being also comes from how comfortable students feel about their classes. A recent student well-being study found that 71% of students feel anxious about their classes and coursework. Plus, less than half feel comfortable asking questions. The research also found that more than half of students also struggle to practise healthy habits, and 64% have difficulty sleeping.

First Year Students Mental Health

Starting university can be an extremely challenging time, with students experiencing lots of changes and having new environments to adjust to. A 2021 survey from the Office for National Statistics revealed that 37% of first-year students reported depression and anxiety symptoms in England. Compared to the average of 16-29-year-olds, this number is 25% higher.

Out of the students surveyed, more than 23% said their mental well-being was “slightly or much worse”. More key findings were that first-year students reported over the previous two weeks:

  • Some form of anxiety (39%)
  • Moderate symptoms of depression (37%)
  • An eating disorder (27%)

The results from this first-year students study should be interpreted with some caution. The group used a relatively small sample size of a few thousand students, though the outcome is comparable to other similar surveys that included more individuals.

autism and mental health

Impact of the Coronavirus Pandemic on Learning

It is clear that the pandemic has had a huge impact on the entire population’s mental well-being – especially university students. The latest data from the UK Government’s National Core Study programme found that the public’s mental health deteriorated throughout the pandemic. This was the most severe for women, people with higher degrees and young people – meaning higher education students were some of the most at risk for worsening psychological health.

Due to a loss of face-to-face learning and teaching, 38% of new students suggested they felt unprepared for the study process at university. This hugely impacts academic performance and confidence going forward in their future careers.

Mental Health Support

The survey from the Office for National Statistics also showed that 21% of first-year higher education students reported engaging with mental health services. However, a significant proportion of students are still not getting the support they need from their place of study. A new report found that over half of UK students (52%) claim their university does not provide access to mental well-being services, despite 77% viewing it as an important resource.

How Can Student Well-being Be Improved?

It is vital to continue to monitor the mental health of the general student population. This way, higher education providers can better understand their student’s needs and find solutions for their mental health concerns.

Although it looks like we are out of the pandemic, the longer-lasting effects of the past few years of lockdowns are sure to still be present in everyone’s mental health. UK universities need to ensure that comprehensive student mental health support is accessible for all by redirecting funding into this vital service.

Contact the Wave Clinic Today

Dealing with mental health issues as a young person can be extremely confusing. As so many life events are already unfolding during this time, dealing with mental health difficulties can be overwhelming. At the Wave, we understand the need for high-quality health care for young people.

Our staff offer specialist treatment for a range of mental health concerns, including depression, eating disorders, addiction, and more. We aim to help each person that comes to us build a strong foundation they can take forward into a lifetime of wellness and positive growth.

The Wave’s programs create a safe space for reflection, healing, and transformation, for both the individual undergoing treatment and their families. As each person has experienced a completely different path in life, every treatment plan can be tailored to suit individual needs and goals. We take a holistic approach, ensuring that the whole person is treated during the healing process to support long-term recovery.

Experiencing mental health difficulties can be extremely isolating but please know you are not alone. Contact the Wave today for more information about our international treatment facilities and unique approach.

Fiona - The Wave Clinic

Fiona Yassin is the founder and clinical director at The Wave Clinic. She is a U.K. and International registered Psychotherapist and Accredited Clinical Supervisor (U.K. and UNCG).

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