As young adults in our 20s, we face a very tumultuous period of serious highs and all-time lows. While college proved to be a never-ending binge of self-exploration, asserting independence, and bad decision-making, the postgraduate life seems only to be a ceaseless, rude awakening to the cost of our growth in wisdom and individuality.

And that price often compromises our mental health.

According to Liberty Street Economics, student loan debt has nearly tripled over the past eight years, increasing to an unbelievable $1.1 trillion. In the past 10 years alone, the number of 25-year-olds experiencing debt has increased from 25 percent to 43 percent. The number of years this will inevitably cause us to live with our parents was unfortunately not given.

Even though the never-ending stream of exams and papers college bombarded us with seemed hard at the time, most of us did not understand the meaning of the word stress until our loans became a reality. Former student Shane Fischer, an attorney of age 36, told Learn Vest, “When I was 21, I had no real concept of money. I’d lived off my parents as a college student, and anything that I made from part-time jobs was ‘fun money’. So the amount of student loan debt that I was accruing seemed very abstract.” Like Fischer, many of us were forced to learn the value of money, and our lack thereof, at a young age, and not surprisingly, it is currently causing an upswing in 20-something mental illness.

In a study published in the journal Social Science & Medicine, researchers Katrina M. Walsemann of the University of South Carolina and her team told us something we all already knew: student debt causes psychological issues. Even though poorer mental health seemed a fact for undergrads and postgrads, this study happens to be the first scientific link between student debt and higher levels of anxiety and depression. (Thank you, science, for finally admitting that the struggle is real.)

Walsemann and her team conducted their research on a pool of 4,643 Americans born between the years 1980 and 1984, while also pulling data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. Using the Mental Health Inventory, a standardized questionnaire utilized to measure psychological state, Walsemann was able to conclude that students possessing loans had poorer mental health. Stress, anxiety, hopelessness, and sometimes depression all seemed to result as debt accumulated.

According to Walsemann’s sources, the average amount of debt for individuals under 30 totaled $23,300. Researchers have also previously concluded that other types of debt, such as those caused by the steam coming off our credit cards, was linked to anxiety and other types of mental illnesses. Walsemann, however, insists that student debt and its effects on mental health should be studied further, as debt only seems to be increasing while most postgraduates struggle to find work.

Now that Science has proven our woes a fact, can they offer us any hope? It seems that for now all we can do is crawl under the covers of our childhood beds and remember the ignorant bliss of our former days.

Does anyone have a time machine?

Source: Walsemann, K, Sick of our Loans: Student Borrowing and the Mental Health of Young adults in the United States. Social Science & Medicine. 2015.