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College Students Experience High Levels of Worry and Stress

College Students Experience High Levels of Worry and Stress

by Zach Hrynowski and Stephanie Marken

Story Highlights

  • Over one-third of students felt lonely or sad a lot of the prior day
  • Female students report higher rates of negative emotions

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- During the spring 2023 semester, 76% of U.S. college students reported experiencing enjoyment during much of the prior day. However, majorities also said they felt stress (66%) and worry (51%). In addition, 39% said they endured loneliness and 36% sadness the previous day.


These results are based on a March 13-30, 2023, Gallup web survey with an opt-in panel sample of 2,430 students pursuing their bachelor’s degree at a four-year U.S. institution.

Female Students More Likely to Experience Negative Emotions

Female undergraduates, who represent the majority of currently enrolled U.S. college students, are more likely than their male peers to report experiencing negative daily emotions. Among all emotions evaluated, the greatest differences between male and female students are in the areas of worry and stress.

Approximately three-quarters of female students (72%) report experiencing stress a lot of the prior day, compared with 56% of male students. Likewise, 56% of female students report experiencing worry the prior day, compared with 40% of their male peers. Feelings of sadness are also much higher among female college students, and female students are less likely than male students to report experiencing enjoyment.


Daily negative emotions are generally similar among students from different racial/ethnic groups and by first-generation college student status.


Gallup research indicates Americans’ assessments of their mental health reached an all-time low in the winter of 2022. Unfortunately, high levels of negative daily emotions among college students are consistent with results from the Lumina Foundation-Gallup State of Higher Education 2022 study, which found emotional stress was a major reason currently enrolled students considered stopping out in the fall of 2022.

Feelings of stress, worry, loneliness and sadness have challenged higher education institutions in the years since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and they are likely to continue into the fall of 2023. Incoming students require significant support to overcome the stressors they will face to be able to complete their postsecondary experience and launch successfully into life after graduation.

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