More than a third of grad students show signs of depression, survey finds

Subscribe
Daily Briefing

More than a third of grad students show signs of depression, survey finds

Graduate students are more than six times as likely to experience depression and anxiety, compared to the general population, finds a study published in Nature Biotechnology.

The study’s authors surveyed 2,279 graduate students from 235 institutions across 26 countries via social media and direct email about their mental health. The respondents’ answers were measured on clinically validated scales for anxiety and depression, writes Colleen Flaherty for Inside Higher Ed.

About 39% of respondents scored in the moderate-to-severe depression range, compared to just 6% of the general population, according to the study. More than half of respondents who experience anxiety (56%) or depression (55%) did not report a good work-life balance. Among the students with anxiety or depression, 50% did not agree that their mentor provided “real” mentorship, and more than half did not feel valued or supported professionally by their mentor, writes Flaherty.

39%

of surveyed grad students scored in the moderate-to-severe depression range

Higher education depends on a “vulnerable population” of graduate students who support faculty research, says Nathan Vanderford, one of the study’s authors. The high rates of anxiety and depression among grad students should push college leaders to double down on career outcomes and mental health care resources, says Vanderford, an assistant professor at the University of Kentucky.

The study recommends the following steps to address the graduate student mental health crisis.

1: Empower faculty and staff to address mental health concerns. Ask mental health professionals to train your faculty and staff to recognize and respond to students’ mental health needs, the study suggests.

2: Expand career development support. Faculty and administrators need more resources and training to guide grad students through the increasingly competitive job market, the study’s authors write. Academics should also work to address the fear that mental health issues can jeopardize a person’s chance at tenure, they add.

3: Encourage work-life balance. Graduate students can feel a great deal of pressure to see a return on their educational investment and throw themselves completely into their work, psychiatrist Dion Metzger told The Atlantic in 2016. Faculty need to encourage students to make time for self-care and practice a mindful work ethic, the study’s authors recommend (Flaherty, Inside Higher Ed, 3/8/18; Patterson, The Atlantic, 7/6/16). 

In the 2013 study Responding to Students of Concern, EAB demonstrated the shortage of BIT/CARE team outcome evaluations, as few institutions have robust assessment initiatives. Frequent barriers cited by interviewees included lack of time, a dearth of senior interest, and data collection issues. As the Student Affairs Forum team updated our BIT/CARE work across 2017,…

Read more about student mental health

Demand for mental health services is soaring. In fact, the number of students seeking mental health services is growing five times faster than enrollment, reported Kelly Field in 2016 for the Chronicle of Higher Education. Experts propose a few potential reasons for the explosion of demand: More students arriving on campus with pre-existing mental conditions;More social…

Although young adults list mental health as a top concern, only one in three students say they have reliable access to mental health resources, according to a recent study from the Born This Way Foundation (BTWF). These findings are consistent with a similar study conducted by BTWF in 2017. To conduct the 2017 study, Benenson Strategy Group…

More than a third of first-year college students show signs of mental health distress, according to an international study by the World Health Organization (WHO).   To conduct the study, WHO surveyed 13,984 students across 19 colleges in eight countries—Australia, Belgium, Germany, Mexico, Northern Ireland, South Africa, Spain, and the United States—during their first months…

As more students use campus mental health services than ever before, many people assume that today’s college students are simply less resilient than students of previous generations. But mental health professionals and experts suspect that there are several other factors at play. “College is a stressful time for many students; it represents a significant life…

Logging you in