STUDENTS suffering from financial worries are more likely to develop mental health conditions including depression and alcoholism, according to new research.
A team from the University of Southampton and Solent NHS Trust found that symptoms of anxiety and alcohol dependence worsened over time for people struggling to pay bills, while those who were stressed about their debt had increasing levels of depression.
The research also discovered that mental health problems and alcoholism predicted higher levels of financial stress, suggesting these conditions could lead to a “vicious cycle”.
Dr Thomas Richardson, a visiting academic at the University of Southampton and principal clinical psychologist at Solent NHS Trust, led the study.
He said: “The findings suggest a vicious cycle whereby anxiety and problem drinking exacerbate financial difficulties, which then go on to increase anxiety and alcohol intake.
“Interventions which tackle both difficulties at the same time are therefore most likely to be effective.”
The study featured more than 400 first-year undergraduate students from universities across the UK and took into account financial factors including family affluence, recent financial difficulties, and attitudes towards money.
It discovered that those who considered not going to university or who had thought about abandoning their studies for financial reasons suffered greater mental health deterioration over time.
Andy Jones was studying occupational therapy but had to stop due to depression and not being able to financially support himself.
He said: “When I was not very well, I was not able to work part-time so was unable to supplement my income during university.
“Having financial difficulties increased my day to day stress levels and something usually had to give and it was usually my academic studies.
“It was a vicious cycle.”
Dr Richardson, who has conducted staff training at universities in the south on debt and mental health, added: “Coming to university can be a stressful and daunting time for young people and finances can cause a lot of worry.
“We might not be able to change how much debt students are in but we can work with them to help them manage their finances and worries about money in order to mitigate the impact of these worries on mental health.”