A doctor at Massachusetts General Hospital says, “50 – 60% of college students have a psychiatric disorder.” Included in this statistic is substance use/abuse, anxiety, depression, learning disabilities and attention issues.
University students are under increasing pressure from their school workload, stressing over attaining the perfect internship and figuring out how to live on their own. With the stress and new factors, these students are at a disadvantage. The human brain does not fully develop until the age of 26 or so.
What does it mean for a young adult if their brain is not fully developed? According to Mental Health Daily, some people may have serious struggles with impulsive decisions and also planning behavior to reach a goal. For example, Jane Doe might have issues structuring her day to successfully achieve the goals necessary to complete a college course or John Doe could decide that going out to party with his friends every night of the school week is not going to have negative consequences. Also, a more fully developed brain (adults over 25) are less affected by the influence of their peers and have an easier time handling the pressures.
There are a lot of new factors and responsibilities to consider when students start college. The new freshmen class face a lot of pressure. Students must quickly build their class schedule, make friends and learn their new surroundings. How much are course books? Where do you get meals? Where’s class? How do you get clean clothes? There is a lot of pressure for college students to perform and to perform well.
So how can they be helped? Some colleges are requiring online screenings for their incoming students before classes begin to help them identify warning signs so that entire campuses may be proactive regarding certain psychiatric issues. Younger freshman should learn from upperclassmen by joining clubs and extracurricular activities aside from academics to give their campus lives a more well-rounded structure and help relieve some of the stress. In addition, exercise, dietary intake and cognitive challenges are positives in promoting healthy prefrontal cortex development in adults under 25.
Promoting Healthy Prefrontal Cortex Development in Young Adults
What can you do to be proactive about healthy brain development?
-challenge your brain with activities that may boost brain function i.e. Lumosity
-eat healthy; plenty of fruits, vegetables and protein while avoiding processed sugars may be helpful as well
-Choose a successful environment: surround yourself by good, smart people who will challenge you to do your best. Eat well, make sure you have access to resources that will help you be successful.
-Exercise! Exercise increases blood flow and has all kinds of positive benefits for your body even producing new brain cells.
-Get adequate sleep. While it may be cool to brag about pulling an all-nighter getting to bed at a reasonable hour each night is a sound solution to help with brain development.
-Supplements. Things like fish oil and antioxidants may help with brain development but in no way do they substitute a healthy diet and a good night’s sleep.