University Post
University of Copenhagen
Independent of management


We are educating a new stressed-out generation

Anne Vraa Jensen on the year when she broke down with stress. The problem of stress cannot simply be reduced to an individual, personal responsibility, she argues

Today I cleaned up my desk. Tomorrow I enter the month of December. This means the year is almost gone, and I am therefore soon finished with my term on the Student Council’s executive committee. 2016 has also been a fast year. Much has happened in 2016. In some ways, 2016 has been a long year for me: In 2016 I broke down with stress.

I was not stressed out in the way where you think: ‘come on, now I’m behind 500 pages in my reading, hopefully I can catch up before the exam.’

Neither was I stressed out in the way where you don’t attend to an appointment or two, because you just want an evening to yourself on the couch. I was stressed out in the way that I began to cry at meetings – several times. I was stressed out in a way, that I could not see how I would ever be happy again.

And I was stressed at the way that I read absolutely nothing and had zero energy to do anything but stare past the teacher’s head when they talked.

In 2016 we got a new minister for education and research. Twice! Søren Pind got his new seat Monday, becoming the third person this year in charge of educating and shaping the future of Denmark. And what has this to do with my stress? Well, I’ll tell you:

No matter how much we want everything in our society to be a personal responsibility, an individual problem and self-inflicted, this is rarely how things are in reality. Stress is not like this. Few people can run themselves down as far as I went. It is not you, it’s your surrounding context that’s wrong.

This is confirmed by the fact that I’m far from the only student that has been stressed in 2016. In fact, the UCPH study survey showed that 41.2 per cent of students are stressed in their everyday lives, with the figure rising to a staggering 70 per cent during exam periods. We are educating and shaping a whole generation of stress.

Stress is therefore a huge problem in our studies, and a problem that I hope the latest minister in our area will take seriously. I suspect, for example, that you have a classmate or two who is stressed out about not having a roof over their heads, or not being able to afford the roof they have.

So maybe Søren Pind should make sure that students are not concerned that their livelihoods will be removed tomorrow, Monday or next month?

I also think that some of my fellow students are stressed about the enormous pressure it is for them to finish their programme of study as quickly as possible. So maybe Søren Pind should abolish the Study Progress Reform altogether? I know many students stress out about what they should be when they grow up, how they best can contribute to society, and how they best can gain the knowledge to do so.

So maybe we all just need to give each other a break, remember to take the wrong path once in a while, and enjoy the Christmas season with its goodies and sweeties to the full. Thanks for this year!