Study debt, performance pressure and stress: 'People have a limit'

The Ministry of Education will have large-scale research into psychological problems among students in higher education. There have been concerns for some time about increasing stress among students due to factors such as the loan system, performance pressure and social media.

Last year, research from 3,000 students by Windesheim University of Applied Sciences showed that nearly seven out of ten students often experience performance pressure to very often. But there is hardly any research into whether the level of stress among this generation of students is rising. Several universities have now set up programs to help students balance work and relaxation.

Yoram Meijaard, technical computer science student: “It's a problem if you just do too many things in a short period of time. It's a bit like you start all programs on your PC at the same time and expect that everything will continue to work. That doesn't work. People have a limit. “

According to Dutch student, Ashley van Driel, the knowledge that a study also leads to a substantial study debt, sometimes leading to feelings of anxiety. “Sometimes I think about it and then I get a boost in stress, that's just terribly frightening. And if you continue to think: what if I get married in ten years' time to someone who also has 50,000 euros in student debt? How will we ever go get another mortgage? “

“I went to the doctor myself, I had some physical complaints in combination with mental complaints. Then he said: I think you have a burnout,” says student Lyanne Wiersema. “But then again, I have worked myself into it because I enjoy doing many different things and preferably all at the same time.”

Wiersema: “Somehow I think that stress is also fear, and if you experience stress, it is fear of failure. Fear of not getting something, or not getting a job because that resume is not good.”

Marieke de Bakker, head of student affairs at the University of Utrecht (UU): “Fortunately, most students are doing well. But we often get signals that students suffer more from stress. It becomes worrying when students indicate: this is no longer pleasant “

The UU therefore organizes a special welfare week for students. Part of that is the performance Time Out! where stressful students are presented with a mirror. The Podium T foundation wants to use this 'intervention theater' to initiate the conversation among students about their busy lives.

Ashley van Driel: “There is a scene in which someone says:” If I do not pass my exam, I will not pass my course and then I will not pass my year. I will have to pay even more money. ” That was very recognizable. If you do one thing wrong, it is a kind of domino effect. “

According to the Council for Health and Society, not the students have changed, but society has. In 2018, the council that advises the cabinet and the parliament on health issues wrote an essay on the mental pressure among young adults.

Liesbeth Noordegraaf-Eelens of the council: “If it concerns so many people, you should not only look at the individual, but more broadly: what is the social problem here?”

According to the council, young people looking for help are confronted with 'rigid and oppressive' social expectations of what the lives of young adults should look like. The Council advises applying the 'hard standards' for what success is less rigid. Less emphasis, for example, on grade lists and full CVs as an employer considering a recent graduate for a job. Noordegraaf-Eelens: “Looking much more at what someone can do in the future and not so much at what someone has already done.”

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