College is a very exciting yet stressful time for a young adult. Trying to juggle academics, clubs and organizations, and a social life can be a definite challenge. Some college students may become overwhelmed with feelings of anxiety or depression as a result of so many stressors. In fact, a recent study indicates that more college students are experiencing depression and/or anxiety than they were a decade ago.
John Guffman, PhD and the director of student counseling services at Hofstra University, located in Hempstead, KY, and his colleagues conducted the study. The findings of the study were presented at the annual conference of the American Psychological Association, according to Psych Central.
The researchers examined the college counseling records of 3,256 students who had sought counseling services at a mid-sized private university between September 1997 and August 2009. The students who sought counseling services were both undergraduate and graduate students and were screened for suicidal ideation, mental illness, and self-injurious behavior with different tools and assessments. These assessments included two well-known measures of depression and anxiety: the Beck Depression Inventory and the Beck Anxiety Inventory, clinical evaluations, and structured interviews.
The researchers discovered that during the time period studied, the number of students who suffered from depression increased from 34% to 41 percent. Additionally, they discovered that more students are taking psychiatric medications than they were a decade ago. More specifically, the researchers found that while in 1998 11% of individuals reported utilizing psychiatric medications, in 2008 24% reported utilizing these medications. Most students who used psychiatric medications utilized them for ADHD, depression, and anxiety.
Finally, the number of students who received at least one psychiatric diagnosis rose slightly as well. Specifically, in 1998, 93% of students seeking counseling services received at least one psychiatric diagnosis. This number rose to 96% in 2009. The researchers assert that most of the students received a diagnosis of adjustment disorders, anxiety, or depression and that there were no significant differences among class or race with regards to mental illness diagnosis.
Given that more students are suffering from depression, it is important for you to be able to recognize signs of depression in yourself or in someone you love, such as a friend or in your child if you are a parent. If you are clinically depressed, you have experienced five or more of the following symptoms for at least the past two weeks or more: depressed mood nearly everyday for most of the day, weight gain or weight loss when you are not dieting, a loss of energy or feeling fatigued, indecisiveness or concentration or thinking difficulties, hypersonia or insomnia, a loss of pleasure or interest in most activities, feelings inappropriate or excessive guilt or worthlessness, and possessing suicidal thoughts or thoughts about death.
If you notice these signs in yourself, please seek professional help from your university or college counseling services. If you notice these symptoms in someone you care about, please encourage him or her to seek professional help. Additionally, it is important to seek mental health help if you are experiencing anxiety that is distressing to you or interfering with your ability to function academically, at work, and/or socially.
New research indicates more college students are experiencing depression and anxiety. Perhaps future research will examine how these mental health problems can be prevented in college.
Psych Central: More College Students With Depression, Anxiety:
Mental Health Today: Depression Today: DSM-IV: Major Depressive Episode: