By Kaelan Clack
As a student at university, life is awash with a whole host of challenges, encounters and opportunities. The coalition government’s decision to treble tuition fees in 2012 arguably changed the perspectives of many when considering a university education.
It has often been cited that the increased cost of tertiary education may deter many from pursuing a degree or diploma, especially concerning those from lower socio-economic backgrounds. Yet new research suggests that deterrence from higher education may not be the only repercussion of the fee hike.
Researchers from the University of South Carolina and the University of California, Los Angeles conducted one of the first nation-wide studies in the United States to determine the relationship between student loans and early adult mental health.
By utilising data from a national youth survey compiled in 1997, researchers determined that those who had adopted greater degrees of debt during their studies at university reported higher levels of depressive symptoms.
The research team noted that further research needed to be undertaken, but expressed worry that rising levels of student debt could cause a greater spill over effect of depressive symptoms and alter other life decisions such as marriage, children or occupations.
Depressive symptoms will affect approximately 2.6 in 100 people throughout England, according to the mental health charity ‘Mind’.
An estimated 80,000 children and young adults suffer from severe depression and although the biological causes of depression are disputed, it is generally considered to relate to an under-activity of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine. This leads to diminished electrical activity across synapses in the brain. Antidepressant medication will often address this by increasing serotonin or dopamine concentrations.
However, the causes and effects of mental illness are complex; some may argue that it is one of the least understood branches of medicine.
With a rise on the tuition fee cap rumoured to be under discussion, evidently more needs to be done to address the growing correlation between mental illness and debt amongst young adults.
Photograph: Jagz Mario on flickr