Americans’ mental health continue to struggle amid student loan debt

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While the previous student debt cancellations implemented by the Biden Administration have been beneficial for some, they haven’t even put a dent in the debt acquired by many others, a new survey finds.


Of 2,000 U.S. participants polled in a survey conducted by online education program, ELVTR, 63% of Americans are still wrestling with debt from student loans.

And 54% of respondents say their mental health struggles are directly related to that debt.

Close to 2% of student loan debt has forgiven by the Biden administration. It is the most relieved by any presidential administration in American history.

In total, nearly $32 billion in loans have been absolved since the start of President Biden’s term.

Additionally, the Biden administration’s larger plan — announced in August — will rid working- and middle-class borrowers of up to $10,000 of student loan debt, and Pell Grant recipients in the same income bracket could have up to $20,000 shaved off of their student debt.

Yet, the average student attending a public university in the U.S. borrows $32,880 to get their bachelor’s degree, according to the Education Data Initiative. And tuition prices continue to climb, says Roman Peskin, founder and CEO of ELVTR.

“With the cost of college rising faster than inflation, the situation is only getting worse,” Peskin tells CNBC Make It.

Nearly two-thirds of those polled can barely afford or can’t afford their loan payments at all, with minorities like Black borrowers facing the most debt.

The poll found that 79% of Black and African Americans surveyed are either completely unable or hardly able to afford loan payments. Nearly 70% of women polled also struggle to or can’t meet the expense of their loan payments.

Anxiety is the leading mental health condition as a result of student loan debt, the survey discovered.

But, some people experience other mental health issues which they attribute to their debt from student loans:

Here’s a deeper dive into the numbers:

  • Anxiety (56%)
  • Depression (32%)
  • Insomnia (20%)
  • Panic attacks (17%)
  • Other mental health conditions (10%)

Additionally, over 80% of participants say student loan debt has delayed a major life event for them. These are some of the really important ways loan payments have impacted students’ lives:

  • Delayed spending (i.e a property or car purchase) – 64%
  • Delayed saving – 60%
  • Delayed travel – 53%
  • Delayed starting a family – 32%
  • None of the above – 16%

‘Before we dress the wound, we need to stitch it up’

Almost 60% of Americans polled aren’t happy with their choice of borrowing money to pay for their college education and either regret doing so or doubt it was a good investment.

When reflecting on their higher education choices, many people indicated what they would have done differently if they were given the chance:

  • 28% would choose a different field
  • 25% would spend less on education
  • 23% are happy with their choices
  • 13% would attend a different school
  • 7% would not go to college
  • 4% would spend more on education

And maybe borrowers struggle to accept their decisions because more than half of participants who’ve received a college degree make less money than their friends without degrees.

As a result, there will likely be more career-changers in the future because only 27% of those polled plan to stay in their current industry.

“Loan forgiveness, while a great initiative, is really just a Band-Aid — before we dress the wound, we need to stitch it up first,” Peskin says.