Going to university can be an exciting time for students. It’s a chance to explore their career interests and make new friends. Yet, getting involved in the social scene can be more challenging for some students. Many people wonder how social interaction affects university students’ mental health. Here’s some insight into that question.
Social life and mental health in university students are closely connected. University students must build quality friendships. These connections can help reduce anxiety and depression. Social interactions can also help lower stress levels. Connecting with others releases hormones, such as oxytocin, that can lower anxiety levels.
Communicating with others also allows students to focus energy outward. Quite often, anxiety arises when students are stuck inside their own heads. Once a student forms a friendship, they feel like they have someone they can trust. Suppose a problem arises in the future? They can go to that person instead of bottling up their feelings. These relationships give students a sense of purpose, decreasing the risk of depression.
Improving students’ mental health is crucial because university students face additional stressors. They are under pressure from classes and extracurricular activities. They also face financial challenges and homesickness. In 2020, 90% of university counselling centres reported increased demand for their services. If students have a limited social circle, it can enhance mental health issues.
Social separation can harm students’ mental well-being. During the pandemic, students took online classes and were socially distanced from others. Being disconnected can lead to feelings of loneliness and cause depression. In fact, 32% of graduate students have a major depressive disorder.
Social isolation can also lead to sleep problems and difficulty concentrating. The decrease in mental health can start to impact students’ academic performance. In fact, 64% of young adults no longer in university had mental health issues.
Besides virtual learning, some students may find it harder to join social circles. They may be nervous about participating in clubs where they don’t know people. It may be more difficult for people who are especially shy or have social anxiety.
Another reason students may feel isolated is if they aren’t into the drinking scene. While not all university students drink, about 52.5% drank in the past month as of 2019. Also, some students don’t have time to get involved due to a heavy workload. For first-year students, it can take time to adjust to campus culture.
For university students, connections are crucial to sustaining their mental health. Here are some ways students can build stronger relationships with their peers.
- Join a club. Being part of a club on campus is an excellent way for students to make new friends. It gives them a chance to expand their social network. It can also be a way to reduce social anxiety since club members already have a common interest. Students should try to join an organisation early on to not feel like the only new member. Also, students can join multiple clubs to see where they fit in best.
- Stay on campus. Living on campus is one way undergraduates can build stronger relationships. It makes it easier to immerse themselves in the university culture. It also means the students are more available to attend social events on the weekends. While living on campus, students should try to leave their doors open when they are in the room. An open door can encourage people walking down the hall to stop in and say hello. Also, when university students pick a roommate, going random can be an excellent way to meet someone new.
- Keep an open mind. Students must have an open mind when attending social events. Saying yes to things people wouldn’t normally do can lead to an exciting opportunity. So, it’s essential that students have an open mindset. Plus, it can encourage classmates to invite them to things more often.
- Attend campus events. Many universities offer social events, like dances or game nights. Going to activities on campus is a great way for students to meet new people and is usually free. It could even lead them to discover a new hobby. Many universities also have sports games, which can be a fun way to show school spirit.
- Take advantage of technology. With so many social media platforms, students can stay connected to their peers like never before. Some campuses may have social media pages for clubs or student events. These pages can help undergraduates learn what’s going on around campus. Video chatting is also a good way for students with busy schedules to keep up with their friends.
Academics are just one part of the university experience, and relationships are another. Both are incredibly valuable and last a lifetime. So, how does social interaction affect university students’ mental health? Having quality friendships can improve students’ mental well-being, sense of purpose, and feeling of belonging to, and remaining grounded by, something real and genuine.
Ginger Abbot has written for The National Alliance for Mental Illness, HerCampus, Motherly and more. When she’s not freelancing, she works as chief editor for the learning publication Classrooms, where you can read more of her work.