New mtvU - Associated Press Study Examines College Students' Mental Health and Relationship With Technology

Nearly 7 in 10 Students Report Reading Cries for Emotional Help Online From People Close to Them; 20% State They Have Friends Who Have Talked about Wanting to End Their Lives in the Past Year

1 in 7 Say that Social Networking Sites Increase Feelings of Isolation

Oct 07, 2010, 07:30 ET from mtvU

NEW YORK, Oct. 7 /PRNewswire/ -- mtvU, MTV's 24-hour college network, The Jed Foundation and The Associated Press today revealed the results of a new poll examining college students' emotional health, their close relationship with technology, and how being constantly connected is affecting their state of mind.

Not surprisingly, technology functions as a critical lifeline for college students with 90% saying they've visited a social networking site in the last week, and about four in 10 having over 500 friends on those sites.  Yet, 1 in 7 say that social networking sites increase feelings of isolation.  Nearly 70% report reading posts from someone close to them that seemed like a cry for emotional help, and while most students would offer support in some way, fewer than half would make a personal visit.  Additionally, the consequences of emotional distress in today's college students is concerning - one in five students have friends who have talked about wanting to end their lives in the past year.  

For college students, constant digital communication carries an additional layer of complexity, often leading to misunderstandings, confusion and uncertainty.  At least half the time when students read emails, text messages or posts on social networking sites, 48% say that they are unsure about whether the sender was serious or joking.  The study also finds that nearly 70% have had an argument exclusively via text message, even though the vast majority say face-to-face is a better way to resolve conflicts.  Additionally, 61% of students say they have found themselves frequently tracking someone's social networking profile.

The study is being released as part of mtvU and The Jed Foundation’s ongoing “Half of Us” campaign, along with new programming launching today on-air and online at www.halfofus.com that explores how technology is impacting college students’ emotional health.  Additional programming rolling out this month includes a series of spots highlighting how students can balance technology and emotional health, and new interviews with Maika Maile, the frontman for the band There for Tomorrow, and Casey McPherson, frontman for Alpha Rev.  

Detailed findings from the 2010 study include:

I. Seeking Help / Suicide

20% report that they have friends who have talked about wanting to end their lives in the past year, and 9% state that they've personally thought about it, demonstrating it's more important than ever that young people connect with resources to get help.  

Friends continue to be the number one resource college students turn to when they need help:

  • Close to 70% of students say they've read something posted online by someone close to them that made them think the person was crying out for emotional help.  
  • In these circumstances, just a little over half report they are extremely or very likely to call the person on the phone to express their concern, 49% say they would reply to the message privately using social networking tools, and four in 10 would pay a personal visit to their friend. Very few would formally reach out to campus officials or contact a national help line (10% and 6%, respectively).  
  • Nearly four in 10 students report they are likely to ask for help with a serious personal issue or let a friend know they are upset with them via text message.  

II. Misunderstandings and Conflicts

Being constantly connected can often lead to misunderstandings and confusion.  

  • At least half the time when college students read emails/text messages or posts on social networking sites, 48% report that they are unsure about whether the sender was serious or joking
  • 85% of students say they feel compelled to immediately answer a new message on their cell phone at least half the time.
  • If someone has not responded immediately to a text they have sent, nearly 6 in 10 report spending time analyzing the meaning of non-response.
  • 61% of students say they have found themselves frequently tracking someone's social networking site.

Although an overwhelming number of students say it's better to resolve personal conflicts with friends face to face (84%), this is not always practiced -- nearly 70% report that they have had arguments exclusively via text messages, and half admit to using technology at least moderately to avoid in-person confrontations.  

III. Being Connected and Isolation

College students are perpetually connected via technology.  While most students (85%) feel that social networking sites make them feel more connected, 1 in 7 say that social networking sites increase feelings of isolation.  Over half report spending 2 – 6 hours online, one-third are online for more than 6 hours daily, and 9 in 10 college students said they visited a social networking site in the past week.  The speed and ease of texting makes this technology the preferred way among students to make plans with their friends.  Almost half of students send upwards of 50 text messages daily, and one-fourth send over 100.  

Overall, technology can provide some positive means to escape and de-stress, but the idea of completely disconnecting has the opposite impact, with 57% of students saying that removing technology completely from their lives would make things more stressful, twice the number of students who say it would have a calming effect.  

IV. Stress and Happiness

Being stressed is a fact of life on college campuses today.  62% of students say at least once in the past three months they have felt so stressed they didn't want to hang out with friends or participate in social activities, a stark increase from the 2009 mtvU/AP data (53%).  Additionally, 63% of students say that stress has kept them from their schoolwork once or more in the past few months, compared to 60% in the 2009 mtvU/AP study.  

Yet, college students continue to report high levels of personal happiness.  Over 80% of students say they are somewhat/very happy with how things are going in their life in general, compared to just under 75% in the May 2009 study, and 64% in the March 2008 study.  

Additional findings from this poll can be found at http://www.halfofus.com/press.aspx.

mtvU and The Jed Foundation’s ongoing “Half of Us” campaign is designed to improve emotional health and prevent suicide among college students, fight the stigma around mental health on campus, and connect students to help if needed.  The backbone of the campaign is www.HalfofUs.com, with an abundance of information and resources.  The site also features poignant testimonials from Mary J. Blige, Pete Wentz of Fall Out Boy, Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins, Max Bemis of Say Anything, Brittany Snow, and college students from diverse backgrounds openly discussing their personal struggles with serious mental health issues.

For more information on the "Half of Us" campaign please check out http://www.halfofus.com.    

Methodology

The AP-mtvU survey involved interviews with 2,207 undergraduate students ages 18-24 at 40 randomly chosen four-year colleges with enrollments of at least 1,000 students.  Interviews were conducted by Edison Research from September 20 through 24, 2010.  Interviewers first interviewed the students in person to determine their eligibility, then provided respondents with a self-administered questionnaire that students completed with guarantees of anonymity.  To protect privacy, the schools where the study was conducted are not being identified and the students who were interviewed were not asked for their names.  The survey has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.0 percentage points.

mtvU's sponsorship of the study is related to its mental health campaign "Half of Us," which it runs in partnership with the Jed Foundation, a nonprofit group that works to reduce suicide among young people.

About The Associated Press

The Associated Press is the essential global news network, delivering fast, unbiased news from every corner of the world to all media platforms and formats. Founded in 1846, AP today is the largest and most trusted source of independent news and information. On any given day, more than half the world's population sees news from AP. On the Net: www.ap.org.

About mtvU

Broadcast to more than 750 college campuses and via top cable distributors in 700 college communities nationwide, mtvU reaches upwards of 9 million U.S. college students – making it the largest, most comprehensive television network just for college students. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, mtvU can be seen in the dining areas, fitness centers, student lounges and dorm rooms of campuses throughout the U.S., as well as on cable systems from Charter Communications, Verizon FiOS TV, Suddenlink Communications, AT&T u-Verse and nearly 70 others. mtvU is dedicated to every aspect of college life, reaching students everywhere they are: on-air, online and on campus. mtvU programs music videos from emerging artists that can't be seen anywhere else, news, student life features and initiatives that give college students the tools to advance positive social change. mtvU is always on campus, with more than 250 events per year, including exclusive concerts, giveaways, shooting mtvU series and more. For more information about mtvU, and a complete programming schedule, visit www.mtvU.com.

About The Jed Foundation

Since its inception in 2000, The Jed Foundation has become the nation's leading organization working to reduce emotional distress and prevent suicide among college students.  Guided by an expert board of mental health professionals, the organization is changing the way parents and students think about mental health, paving the way for more young people to get the treatment if  needed, and helping colleges build safer, healthier campus communities.  The Jed Foundation was founded by Phil and Donna Satow after they lost their 20-year-old son, Jed, to suicide.  The Foundation's programs include ULifeline, an anonymous, confidential, online resource center, where college students can be comfortable searching for the information they need and want on mental health and suicide prevention. Currently, more than 1,500 colleges and universities participle in the ULifeline Network.

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