Study shows that 67% of female students and 54% of male students had felt “very lonely” in the past 12 months
By Stefan Yablonski
Being away from home — for an extended period of time — can cause a lot of stress and loneliness for many college students. Leaving home for college can be stressful, especially for first-year students.
Feelings of depression, isolation, homesickness and loneliness are quite common among freshman.
Research has shown that as many as 75% of college freshman reported feelings of loneliness their first two weeks of school.
Loneliness is a huge issue on campuses across the country. A survey conducted by the American College Health Association found that 67% of female students and 54% of male students had felt “very lonely” in the past 12 months.
The students surveyed also indicated feeling overwhelming anxiety as well as feelings of hopelessness.
Because many of these negative feelings are internalized, many students do not readily speak to the issue, as they feel embarrassed or ashamed.
However, silence just compounds the problem.
Nearly 12% of the students surveyed also had considered suicide.
“SUNY Oswego’s Counseling Services Center saw approximately 900 students — for about 5,000 appointments,” according to Jane LeBlanc, associate director of clinical services. “That includes individual and group appointments. Those are unique clients to the center.”
“I was here in 2008 and I’d say we saw about 9% or 10% of the college population that lives on campus. That has grown to about 14% to 20%,” she said.
There was an initial tick upward during the pandemic, but that has gone back down a little bit.
“It is high — but it continues to be manageable,” she added.
53% of college students reported that they are concerned with feeling lonely and 47% said they are concerned with feeling isolated, according to a Sodexo student lifestyle survey in 2022.
More than 60% of today’s college students have reported feeling overwhelmed and anxious — a 50% increase from 2020.
And, 87% of them said that eating together is the most typical way that they socialize with friends. More than 50% expect their campus dining hall to serve as that place to connect.
Sodexo provides flexible food experiences and designs workplaces and offers support for patients and students.
“Some may not want to go there [dining hall] and sit alone,” LeBlanc said. “So we are working on ways to persuade students to encourage others [students] to sit with them.”
Especially for freshmen, it is really important that they feel a sense of belonging, LeBlanc said.
“During the pandemic there was increased isolation, which at times could lend to the stress and anxiety that students were feeling. We still see a little bit of that carryover as they are learning to re-involve themselves with their peers and also their communities,” she added. “We always suggest getting involved in clubs or organizations, coming to counseling and doing some of our group counseling is good.
“As part of their student health fee, they are eligible for individual and group counseling. We also do a lot of outreach, after-hours crisis service and also consultation and referral services.”
She suggested going to some of the events that the college provides — speakers or art activities or theater productions. “There are all kinds of ways to get involved,” she said.
It’s not always the lack of people that makes a student feel lonely. It is the lack of quality interactions.
Leaving home; leaving family and friends behind — is very hard on young adults. And, developing new friendships can be challenging as well.
“The thing about loneliness is, I think, students to some degree need to learn that being alone in itself is not a bad thing. It’s when you become so isolated that you start feeling symptoms of depression and anxiety,” LeBlanc pointed out. “Learn how to be by yourself, but learn how to do things so that you are not isolated. Getting a job, even a few hours a week, will get you doing something and meeting people.”
How to Prevent Loneliness
One of the best ways to cope with college loneliness is to recognize that it is a very real possibility and take steps to keep it at bay.
• Get involved on campus. Staying busy is one of the best ways to beat loneliness.
• Strike up conversations with people. Say hello to at least one person in each class or to sit with a new person at lunch at least once or twice a week.
• Limit technology use. Focus on leaving the dorm and getting involved. Join a club, a sport or a religious group.
• Find a balance between connecting with new people while keeping in touch with those at home.
• Take action instead of wallowing or fixating on something negative.
• Putting yourself out there not only will help you — but could be a huge help to someone else, too.
How to Get Help
When students need to talk to someone, they can call the 315-312-4416 number and talk to a counselor. Or they can call 988 (just like 911). It’s the new suicide and crisis lifeline.
According to Jane LeBlanc, associate director of clinical services,one of the new initiatives is Togetherall— a totally peer mental health platform for talking, asking questions and getting some great skills via worksheets, self-measures, take mini workshops and journaling.
“It’s a safe online community where students can support each other. It’s anonymous and it’s available 24/7 — so even if students are isolating they can talk to other people who might be feeling the same way they are,” LeBlanc explained. “It is just college students.”
For more information, visit oswego.edu then type “togetherall” in the seach feature.