Friday, March 5, 2021

Half of College Students May Have Mental Illness

More than half of college students meet the criteria for one or more mental health conditions, a study in Psychiatric Services in Advance has found.

Sarah Ketchen Lipson, Ph.D., Ed.M., of the Boston University School of Public Health and colleagues analyzed 2016-2019 data from the Healthy Minds Study, an annual web-based survey. Data were drawn from 10,089 students from 23 community colleges and 95,711 students from 133 four-year institutions. As part of the study, students completed several standard mental health measures, such as the nine-item Patient Health Questionnaire for depression, the seven-item Generalized Anxiety Disorder scale for anxiety, and the SCOFF Questionnaire for eating disorders. They were also asked if they had ever seriously thought about attempting suicide in the previous year.

Relative to students from four-year campuses, community college students were older and a higher portion were Latinx.

More than 50% of the students met the criteria for one or more mental health conditions, including roughly 33% who screened positive for depression and for anxiety and roughly 15% who reported suicidal ideation. Community college students aged 18 to 22 years were more likely to screen positive for these conditions than their peers at four-year institutions.

The study also measured how often students received mental health care through campus resources. Community college students had lower rates of therapy and psychotropic medication use than their peers at four-year institutions: Roughly 25% received therapy compared with nearly 38% at four-year institutions, and approximately 26% used psychotropic medications compared with more than more than 31% at four-year institutions. Financial constraints were the most common barrier to treatment among community college students, but the fourth most common barrier among those at four-year institutions.

“As U.S. higher education is shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic, shifts in enrollment could exacerbate known disparities in mental health, college persistence, and other key social and economic outcomes,” Lipson and colleagues wrote. “Continued research on the unique mental health needs of community college students is imperative in promoting equity across these domains, and funding for mental health services on community college campuses is a high priority.”

For related information, see the Psychiatric News article “College Students Struggle Amid Pandemic.”

(Image: iStock/Drazen Zigic)

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