3 ways loneliness impacts college students

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A college student walking through the campus quad while checking her phone. Do you remember the beginning of your college journey? You received the acceptance letters, toured campuses and — depending on your generation — signed up for social media with your shiny new “.edu” email address.

The process is exciting, and between moving away from home for the first time and experiencing the first taste of independence, the whole world opens up. But for some, college is a scary and lonely experience, filled with new routines, high expectations and a need to fit in.

Young adults are one of the loneliest groups, and this often sets in during college. See why loneliness is prevalent among college students and how it impacts them.

3 ways loneliness affects college students 

College isn’t all frat parties and parental freedom. It’s a new world in which students become one fish in a sea of thousands—and that can be more than a little intimidating. In fact, a nationwide study of over 33,000 college students in 2020 found that two-thirds of them struggle with loneliness. 

But shouldn’t it be more exciting?

Maybe. But loneliness in college students stems from various factors. Research has shown that family wealth, year of study, gender and needs for romantic relationships, social interactions and economic support can all play their part. And when students face chronic loneliness at such a formative time, it can impact them in significant ways.

Social isolation

When you’re lonely, it’s easy to close yourself off. College students are trying to find their way and fit in, but there's often a lingering fear of social rejection. “What if they don’t like me? “What if I’m not good enough?” For many students, it’s easier to isolate instead of taking risks. And if they do step out and try to engage, they might see others as threatening, perpetuating their isolation, loneliness and low self-esteem. 

Health concerns

When you’re lonely, your mind and body know it. College students suffering from chronic loneliness know this all too well, experiencing a range of symptoms, including: 

  • Hopelessness
  • Depression
  • Suicidal behavior
  • Ineffective social skills
  • Low sleep quality

These students may believe no one understands them or they don’t have anyone to turn to. And if they feel this way, their resilience plummets, making them more prone to poor habits such as drug use and smoking. 

These factors combine to create the perfect storm for poor physical health. Lonely individuals are more likely to suffer from heart disease and have higher instances of stroke, and with the distractions of loneliness, engaging in their health winds up on the back burner. 

Poor academic performance

When students are lonely, the Dean’s List might be a stretch. Remember the Boston University survey we touched on earlier? It found that a majority of lonely students—83 percent—believe their academic performance has suffered because of loneliness and the associated mental health effects.

This is partly because of academic procrastination, meaning when students put off doing homework, writing essays and completing other academic tasks because their loneliness is so preoccupying. They simply can’t focus and might even suffer from impaired cognition. As a result, these students underperform, earning lower grades than their non-lonely peers.

Learn how Pyx Health partners with universities to address the student mental  health crisis and loneliness on campus.

Help them make college the best years of their lives

The best thing about college is that young adults have the time to learn, grow and adapt to life’s changes. But loneliness makes it hard to enjoy this evolution, leading to isolation, academic struggles and even health problems. 

A loneliness solution could help. Pyx Health is uniquely positioned to support young adults, including college students. Our digital solution is based on human compassion and connection, with core elements that combine to provide on-time solutions. The Pyx Health app includes young-adult-specific content related to everything from relationship management to academic concerns to LGBTQIA+ support. Plus, the platform comes equipped with Pyxir — a fun wellness chatbot that provides positive psychology activities.

But sometimes, students need a listening ear or shoulder to cry on. That’s why our support doesn’t stop at the screen. Users also get 24/7 access to our specially trained support staff — ANDYs (Authentic, Nurturing, Dependable, Your Friend) — to call or message for human connection and guidance toward appropriate resources. 

And the results don’t lie! Here’s just a sample of our successes:

  • 83% of Pyx Health users feel more connected to their health care team.
  • 89% of Pyx Health users use the app for at least 30 days.
  • $846 PMPM saved in emergency department and inpatient costs.

Think your students could benefit from Pyx Health? Let’s connect! In the meantime, get to know the real face of loneliness in our eye-opening infographic. 

Cover of the Higher Education Executive Brief