The hidden cost of student debt: a mounting mental health crisis

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The Supreme Court’s recent dismissal of student loan relief has left many borrowers grappling with disappointment and resignation.

According to new research from the University of Georgia, the burden of student loan debt could be exacerbating America’s mental health crisis.

Social Media Gives Voice to Anxious Borrowers

The study, which scrutinized over 85,000 student loan-related posts on Reddit and Twitter from 2009 to 2020, found strong connections between student loan debt and high levels of mental health distress, including depression, anxiety, and negative academic and personal outcomes.

Gaurav Sinha, the lead author of the study and an assistant professor in UGA’s School of Social Work, explains that the constant preoccupation with financial debt not only impairs financial health but also significantly affects mental wellbeing.

Financial Worry Hampers Focus and Relationships

Sinha’s research points to the conclusion that the financial worries related to student loan debt can distract students from focusing on their studies.

Moreover, for graduates burdened with debt, the mental effort dedicated to loan repayment plans and budgeting can have a damaging effect on personal relationships.

Mental Illness Symptoms Exacerbated by Debt Stress

The study focused on finance and mental health discussions on subreddits and Twitter posts. Machine learning models were used to identify tweets exhibiting signs of common mental illness symptoms.

The majority of user posts were overwhelmingly negative, with posts expressing symptoms of mental illness sharing higher levels of negativity than posts in finance subreddits and on Twitter.

For users exhibiting mental illness symptoms, the stress of repaying student loans seemed to worsen their condition.

Sinha noted that these users often expressed a sense of hopelessness and fear about their debt, doubting their ability to repay their loans, and expressing despair about their financial future.

Demand for Financial Education Echoes Across Social Media

A recurrent theme among these posts was the desire for more information about student loans and managing repayment plans.

Many users expressed regret about their lack of financial education and their inability to foresee the impact of their debts on their future finances.

Sinha asserts that providing accessible and understandable information about student loans is crucial. He also argues that making higher education more affordable is a necessary step to tackling this problem on a larger scale.

The researchers suggest that the introduction of financial education courses in public school systems could help future students comprehend the potential consequences of their education loans and promote responsible credit use.

The study concludes that as student loan debts mount, the ripple effects are clearly visible on social media.

As borrowers express their frustration, fear, and despair, it is evident that student loan debt is not just a financial crisis but a growing mental health one as well.

If you care about mental health, please read studies about 6 foods you can eat to improve mental health, and B vitamins could help prevent depression and anxiety.

For more information about mental health, please see recent studies about how dairy foods may influence depression risk, and results showing Omega-3 fats may help reduce depression.

The study was published in the Journal of Evidence-Based Social Work.

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