Study: Perfectionism Rising Among College Students

A blessing? A curse?

No matter how you view perfectionism, a new study shows that today’s college students are more likely to exhibit its traits than past generations.

Survey data collected from more than 41,000 students who attended college in the US, Canada, and UK between 1989 and 2016 shows that three key types of perfectionism have become more common in recent years.

“Our findings suggest that self-oriented perfectionism, socially prescribed perfectionism, and other-oriented perfectionism have increased over the last 27 years,” researchers conclude in a study published last month by the American Psychological Association (APA). “We speculate that this may be because, generally, American, Canadian, and British cultures have become more individualistic, materialistic, and socially antagonistic over this period, with young people now facing more competitive environments, more unrealistic expectations, and more anxious and controlling parents than generations before.”

Growing anxiety around academic performance and career prospects also play a role, according to report authors Thomas Curran and Andrew Hill.

“These findings suggest that recent generations of college students have higher expectations of themselves and others than previous generations,” Curran said in a press release. “Today’s young people are competing with each other in order to meet societal pressures to succeed and they feel that perfectionism is necessary in order to feel safe, socially connected, and of worth.”

But the drive to be perfect could be taking a toll on young people’s mental health, researchers noted. Students experience higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts than a decade ago.

In a statement, Curran and Hill urged schools and policymakers “to curb fostering competition among young people in order to preserve good mental health.”

Read the full report.

Admitted writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at

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