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Study shows how mental health issues take a toll on college students

0 2 years ago

To say that college years are a time of great change is an understatement; whether you stay at or close to home, or move away to a four-year university, the post–high school years are often a time of new experiences, unfamiliar responsibilities, growing pains, and learning curves. They can also be a time when some students have to navigate their own physical and mental health for the first time without parental support.

College is a key developmental time; the age of onset for lifetime mental health problems also directly coincides with traditional college years-;75 percent of lifetime mental health problems will onset by age 24.”

Sarah K. Lipson, assistant professor of health law, policy, and management, Boston University School of Public Health

For more than 10 years, she’s studied college student mental health with the Healthy Minds Network, a national project she coleads with researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, the University of Michigan, and Wayne State University.

In a new study, Lipson and her colleagues reveal just how common depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues are, and how these issues take a toll on students of color unequally. The paper looks at survey data collected by the Healthy Minds Network between 2013 and 2021 from 350,000 students at over 300 campuses. It’s the first long-term, multicampus study of its kind to parse out differences in treatment and prevalence of mental health issues across race and ethnicity. The study was coauthored by Lipson and other members of the Healthy Minds Network team.

“As a budding clinician of color, I think the tracking of these trends helps support efforts related to stigma reduction and [mental health] education that can be targeted toward certain communities,” says Jasmine Morigney, a clinical psychology doctoral student at Eastern Michigan University and a coauthor on the study.

The researchers used screening tools to measure mental health symptoms, levels of flourishing, and whether a student received treatment during their time at college; participants self-identified their race and ethnicity.

They found that the mental health of college students across the United States has been on a consistent decline for all eight years of data analyzed, with an overall 135 percent increase in depression and 110 percent increase in anxiety from 2013 to 2021; the number of students who met the criteria for one or more mental health problems in 2021


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