College Debt Leads to Stress, Headaches and Pain

By Jayla Richards

Student loans and debt are one of the top causes of stress in the United States. More than 70 percent of respondents reported headaches from worrying about college debt, according to a study by Student Loan Hero Inc., a subsidiary of LendingTree.

About 44 million borrowers have student loan debt totaling $1.5 trillion, the Institute for College Access & Success reports. With all the stress created from worrying about paying this debt, people are also reporting anxiety, insomnia and even social isolation, says Shannon Insler, who wrote about the LendingTree study in “The Psychological Effects of Debt — How Student Loans Impact Lives” on the company’s website.

This stress can lead to depression for some. Insler said that 64.5 percent of surveyed respondents “reported suffering from sleepless nights due to debt” and that more than 67 percent reported having anxiety. Other symptoms include muscle tension, upset stomach, rapid heartbeat, tremors and fatigue. 

Some students at Howard University said that the government should provide some financial resources to help reduce the stress of college loans and debt. Josephine Schreier believes that the government can enforce some kind of control on college tuition fees, the price of education programs and repayment programs. Gabrielle Spotwell also believes that the government can provide assistance to students that will help them manage college loans and debt. She says that the government should be able to “wipe out the debt for everyone or make college free for everyone” and “provide better job opportunities to help pay off loan debt”.

The federal government has provided some resources to help manage college loans and debt. For example, former President Barack Obama created the Obama Student Loan Forgiveness Program (Pay As You Earn) during his time in office. The goal of the program is to help student loan debt stay manageable, and the remaining balance will be forgiven if the requirements are met. President Trump and U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos have also proposed changes in student loan forgiveness programs.

Some presidential candidates have announced proposals to reduce student loans and debt. During his 2020 Democratic candidacy for president, Sen. Bernie Sanders has proposed that the federal government eliminate balances for all of the 44 million Americans with student debt in the United States. Sanders also wants to make all public universities, community colleges and trade schools tuition free. 

Other programs are being considered to help people with the stress of trying to pay off their college debt. Some programs have already been created, but they need to be accessible and the public needs to be informed about them.

Kafoi Young, a student at Howard, said that young people lack experience in managing money and that it would be helpful if the government educated students about debt. 

Psychologists say that the stress of student loans and debt can take quite a toll on people, and it’s important to know how to deal with that stress. Here are four steps that they recommend:

  1. Face anxiety, and find help to cope with it. 
  2. Develop a financial plan that will help pay off loans. 
  3. Use available financial tools.
  4. Focus on the life you want to have, and work toward obtaining that life. 

Jayla Richards is a senior at Duval High School in Lanham, Md.