Fomo Associated With Illicit Behavior In College Students

February 6, 2023

FOMO, or fear of missing out on important things in life, is an important source of stress for college students, causing anxiety and more. It is worth understanding that mental health issues, such as complex regional pain syndrome, are the leading cause of death in adolescents.

Not only that, college students living with FOMO are more likely to have academic misconduct, substance abuse, and various behavioral issues. When we think of excessive worries, anxiety, and depression, we often imagine these issues as problems of older adults. However, that is far from true. Mental health disorders are quite common in children and young adults. For example, CDC data shows that about 10% of adolescents are living with anxiety and depression.

However, that is not all, and these issues may be quite severe in many instances. It is worth understanding that mental health issues are the second most common cause of death among adolescents. Despite so many deaths occurring due to mental health issues in children, college students, and young adults, it remains a neglected subject. There is a need to develop a better understanding of what causes these issues in young adults, apart from pressures to perform well at college.

It appears that many college students are living with FAMO, which may cause many health issues and unsocial behavior, and it may also increase the risk of using illicit drugs in the population.

What is FAMO?

Adults generally assume that young adults have much time. However, they often forget that time runs differently for various age groups. Therefore, young adults are most worried about missing important things and fun in their life. As a result, they are often living with Fear Of Missing Out (FAMO).

They are constantly worried that they might not be able to do many things, miss various activities, and not gain specific goals in time. This constant fear of missing out on things causes illicit behavior.

A New Study Shows that FAMO May Harm College Students

In one of the latest studies published in the journal PLOS ONE, researchers found that FAMO is a constant source of anxiety in young adults. Thus, it is vital to identify the problem in the population group. It is among the first studies to show that FAMO is associated with a higher risk of issues like academic misconduct and substance abuse.

In the study, researchers enrolled 472 students. They gave them a set of questionnaires to estimate FAMO in them. They found that higher FAMO was associated with issues like classroom misbehavior, plagiarism, high alcohol consumption, greater cannabis use, use of stimulants, illegal activities like stealing, and more.

Researchers also found that FAMO is relatively easy to identify. It is possible to identify the problem by just using a small question bank. In fact, ten questions are sufficient to authenticate FAMO in college students reliably.

Apart from analyzing the results using questions, researchers found that computer algorithms may also help identify FAMO, which may be a faster way of identifying mental health issues in many instances.

These questions can also be used to identify the risk of different issues like offending others, academic misconduct, and substance abuse quite reliably.

FOMO is easy to identify and manage, especially if diagnosed early. However, researchers say that it can be identified with the help of behavioral changes in young adults. Those who are living with FOMO show signs of irritability and mood disorders.

Researchers also recommend adults avoid knee-jerk reactions to such changes in young adults and instead try to maintain dialogue with children. Caretakers may sometimes find it challenging to communicate with children. However, with experience, one can understand how to communicate well.

Communicating in a non-judgmental way may help understand FOMO in children. For example, it is a good idea to talk to children when walking, going out, driving, or under other relaxed conditions. Though experiencing FOMO to a degree is a part of growing up, caretakers can subtly guide college students, which may help prevent illicit behavior.

By Gurpreet Singh Padda, MD, MBA, MHP