Abstract for: Contagious Anxiety: Modeling Stress Symptoms as Disease

The past decade has seen a spike in anxiety among college students. From 2008 to 2016, the annual anxiety diagnosis and/or treatment rate of students aged 18-26 doubled, growing from 10% of the population to 20% (Scheffler, 2019). In American culture, mental health tends to be disparaged and invalidated as a relevant element of a healthy individual or group. However, cogent analysis and intervention are required. Anxiety matters for its comorbidity with other health concerns, its corrosive effect on productivity and life satisfaction, and its negative influence on learning and discovery in college. The hypothesis of this approach is that if an experience of anxiety can be induced by exposure to another person’s anxiety symptoms, then modeling the communicability of stress can suggest valuable points of intervention in the perpetuation and proliferation of collegiate anxiety. In treating anxiety in college student populations, policy approaches would benefit from considering the role of atmosphere and environment on transmitting stress between students.