80% of middle & secondary school students have exam anxieties, 45% body image issues: NCERT survey

Exams and results are a cause of anxiety for over 80 per cent of school students in India at the middle and secondary school levels, a first-of-its-kind mental health survey conducted by the National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT) has found. The survey also found that 45 per cent of students at these levels suffer from body image issues.

The survey results released Tuesday are based on responses from 3,79,842 students studying in classes 6 to 12. Of the total participants, 1,58,581 students were from the middle school level, while 2,21,261 were from the secondary level. The survey included responses of students from both private and public schools.

Explaining the purpose of the survey, the report said, “The influence of factors such as psychological, social, environmental and life situations on mental health and well-being is well documented. The Mental Health and Well-being of School Students — A Survey attempted to gain insights into the perceptions of students related to some of these factors.”

While 51 per cent of students said that they were satisfied with their personal life, 73 per cent were happy with their school life. The survey also showed that 51 per cent of students said that they faced difficulty in learning online content.

According to the survey results, there was a decline in satisfaction with personal and school life as students shifted from middle to secondary school, as the switch is marked by challenges of identity crisis, peer pressure, fear of Board examinations, uncertainty about the future, college admissions and career worry. The survey found a similar trend in body image issues as well, where students were less confident about their bodies as they reached higher classes.

The report also documented emotional changes that students went through during the pandemic. While mood swing was what the highest number of students — 43 per cent — felt, seven per cent also spoke of emotions of self-harm, according to the survey result.

It also gave suggestions on ways to improve the mental health of students.

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