Heavy alcohol consumption remains a big problem among students. Vaping is on the rise as well. At the same time, drug use seems to stabilise.
The Higher Education Monitor of the national Trimbos Institute reports on both substance use and mental health of students every two years. In the last report – with data collected during the pandemic – results were worrying. Substance abuse had gone up. Mental health issues were also prevalent.
The new report that was published on Thursday, which collects data from 24 higher education institutes, shows that drug use – which had gone up during the Covid pandemic – has somewhat decreased.
Ecstasy is used slightly more among students, but frequent cannabis consumption, the use of psychedelics, non-prescription sleeping medications, and sedatives has actually gone down. The use of other substances, like cocaine, remains unchanged.
However, the researchers worry about the heavy use of alcohol. 85 percent of students have consumed alcohol in the past year. 10 percent qualify as excessive drinkers and 16 percent as heavy drinkers, the same as in 2021.
While smoking is decreasing, students do turn to vaping more often. The 2021 report showed 1 percent of the 28,000 respondents were vaping, while the new data indicate that 4 percent of the 32,000 students vape daily or regularly.
Student mental health continues to be a point of worry. A concerning 44 percent have dealt with symptoms of depression or anxiety in the four weeks prior to the report being completed. These symptoms affect their studies, work and social lives, students report. Study and costs of daily living are the main stressors for students.
However, compared to 2021, there is some improvement in feelings of emotional exhaustion, performance pressure, and loneliness. Almost half of the respondents signal an end to pandemic-induced mental health impacts.
The significant progress can be attributed to increased interest in mental health, as a higher number of students with mental health issues receive counselling or help from someone either within or outside their institute in 2023, the report says.