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Emotional Health at an All Time Low in Students

Earlier this month, I spoke at an event and a student made this statement during a Q&A time: “I know more than my teachers do about technology — I think I’ll do just fine when I graduate and move into my job.”

I paused before responding to his statement. He was self-assured and I didn’t want to rain in on his parade. Finally, I cautiously replied to this student.

“I hope you do well when you transition from backpack-to-briefcase. But your intelligence plays a smaller role in this than you may think. Success in school is made up of 75% IQ and 25% EQ (your emotional quotient). Success in the real world is just the opposite — it’s 25% IQ and 75% EQ. It’s the ability to manage your emotions and relationships. It’s the capacity to get along with colleagues and take correction. It’s how aware you are of others needs and how you come across. And this is emotional intelligence. And that could be the downfall of graduates.”

I said this because of my research. And just yesterday, The Higher Education Research Institute released a report in the L. A. Times saying emotional health in students has reached an all time low. The annual “Freshman Report” showed that only about half of first-year students rated their emotional health as above average, which is the lowest score since the survey was first given in 1966. “What it means is that going to college, students are already feeling more stress and feeling more overwhelmed, and have lower emotional reserves to deal with stress,” said John H. Pryor, lead author of the report and managing director at UCLA’s research institute.

This is why parents, teachers, coaches, employers, and pastors MUST give attention to this issue. Emotional Intelligence can be developed; emotional health can be improved; emotional security can grow. But it means we have to address and measure other things besides grades or athletics in school. We must find ways to equip them in these 4 areas:

1. Self-awareness
2. Self-management
3. Social awareness
4. Relationship management

Let me tell you what I’m doing about this. Growing Leaders is hosting a National Leadership Forum where we will make this issue high priority. Our theme this year is — Develop: Cultivating Growth, Engagement & Success in Students. We’re hosting this in Atlanta, GA on June 23-24, 2011. I’d love for you to join the conversation at this year’s forum. Please check out:

What’s been your experience with emotional health and students?



  1. Doug Smith on January 28, 2011 at 1:07 pm

    Great post Tom! I’m a youth pastor and recently started reading your blog, great stuff! I was actually on a phone call with you through Jeanne Mayo’s mentoring program a little over a year ago. Thanks for everything you do! You are making a huge difference!

    Bubba Smith

    • Tim Elmore on February 8, 2011 at 4:27 pm

      Bubba — Thank you for your note and for your encouragement. You are too kind. Appreciate you taking the time to read my blogs. Hope you’re doing great! Blessings to you.

  2. Elzaan de Villiers on February 16, 2011 at 1:42 am

    Hi Tim, what is the reason for this problem? Elzaan from South Africa

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Emotional Health at an All Time Low in Students