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In college and stressed out? Twitter data shows you're not alone

According to a 2015 survey, millennials are among the most stressed out generation in the U.S. Those aged 18 to 35 are reporting considerably higher stress levels than the average American, and today’s college students, who fit squarely within that age range, appear to be more stressed out than ever before. In fact, according to the American College Health Association, in 2015, a whopping 58 percent of college students reported experiencing “overwhelming anxiety” in the last year. But what’s causing this kind of stress?

A recent survey took to Twitter to determine “the most significant sources of [college students’] stresses,” by examining tweets “originating from four-year universities with 1,000 or more students and searched for keywords related to mental health and stress.” And unsurprisingly, it looks like performance anxiety when it comes to tests and exams is at the top of the list when it comes to major stressors. So much so that they’re tweeting about it.

Midterms and finals were the most significant causes of stress, with 31 percent of students expressing that sentiment via Twitter. About a quarter of students were a bit more far-sighted when it came to their concerns, with 24 percent noting that their job prospects post-college kept them up at night. Students’ tweets suggested that many “find themselves having to make difficult choices about the fields of study that most interest them and those that they feel are most likely to lead to a well-paying career.” Another long-term concern for college students is the issue of repaying their student loans.

Luckily, it looks as though friends and family are the least of college students’ worries.

But not all college experiences are created equal, and not all college students reported the same levels of stress. Indeed, Twitter data suggested that New York saw the highest rate of stress-related tweets from students, followed by California and Massachusetts. And given the abundance of prestigious colleges and universities in these three states, it comes as little surprise that their students are feeling the pressure.

Contributing to this stress (or perhaps as a side effect of it) is sleep deprivation, with around 50 percent of students today reporting daytime sleepiness. When researchers looked for tweets with the words “no sleep,” they found that students from the most stressful states were also tweeting most about not getting enough shuteye — New York and California were the two states with the highest incidence of sleep-related problems.

So step back and take a deep breath, friends. There is indeed life after college, and we think you’ll love it.

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