Mental health tops Indian students’ concerns

Job prospects and Covid-19 among biggest issues for young people, wide-ranging study finds

November 6, 2021
Indian student
Source: iStock

Mental health is the most frequent cause of anxiety among Indian students, a survey of nearly 10,000 of them has found.

The study, which takes the pulse on important issues for undergraduates, postgraduates and recent graduates aged 18 to 23, found that mental health was the greatest concern among this group – ahead of even Covid-19.

The findings come as the higher education sector increasingly turns its attention to tackling issues such as anxiety and depression, which affect hundreds of thousands of young people around the globe.

When asked what makes them anxious, 64 per cent of Indian students responding to the survey said mental health was a concern for them. This was the most popular answer to the question, in which respondents could select multiple categories. By contrast, the second most popular choice, Covid-19, worried 60 per cent of respondents.

Other concerns included job prospects, mentioned by 56 per cent of respondents; inequality, mentioned by 52 per cent; and the political and economic climate, selected by 49 per cent.

Lakshmi Iyer, executive director of education for the international consultancy Sannam S4, which conducted the survey, said the findings bore out the fact that traditionally career-focused Indian students have been hit with fresh concerns due to Covid-19.

“Students have missed milestone events such as graduations and farewells, as we have all been isolated…it is the unseen fallout of this pandemic and something we need to be very mindful of,” she said.

Mental health was also among students’ most immediately pressing concerns, with 21 per cent of them saying they worried most about this issue in their immediate future.

Ms Iyer noted that factors such as job uncertainty and isolation had probably played a role in this finding. She added that with universities swapping face-to-face classes for online courses – seen by many as a poor proxy for real-life interaction – learning had also suffered.

“Teachers who are friends and family members of mine have said they only get black boxes mostly from the students and really have no idea if they are attentive [or] engaged with what is being said in the virtual classroom.”

Yet despite the apparent disconnect of many students, institutions have yet to properly recognise the issue, Ms Iyer said.

“Acknowledging mental health as a key issue is the first step; building resources that students can lean on in the form of counselling and anonymised helplines could be hugely helpful,” she said.

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