25 Must Read Mental Health Statistics About College Studients

1) By age 25, 75% of people who will eventually be diagnosed with a mental illness have already experienced their first bout of illness.

It is not too surprising given the fact that most mental illnesses start before adulthood (in childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood) and are made worse by stress. College is often the first period of significant stress a young adult faces with disruptions in the family unit (e.g., moving away from home, becoming self-sufficient, meeting new peers).

Source: Academic Psychiatry via DOI

2) The most common mental illness in college students are anxiety disorders with nearly 1 in 8 students suffering.

Of the various anxiety disorder, the earliest to develop (often in early childhood) is Social Anxiety Disorder. Other anxiety disorders such as Panic Disorder and PTSD tend to develop in adolescence or young adulthood. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) are the latest to develop with a typical age of onset being 19 or 20 years.

Source: Journal of Academy Psychiatry

Pedrelli, P., Nyer, M., Yeung, A., Zulauf, C., & Wilens, T. (2020). College students: Mental health problems and treatment considerations. Acad Psychiatry, 39(5), 503-511. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40596-014-0205-9

3) Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) affects about 8% (or 1 in 12) of college students.

More than half of all individuals who have recurring episodes of MDD throughout their lives experience the first episode by the time they are college age. However, most people who will only experience a single episode of MDD have their one episode at an age older than college students.

Pedrelli, P., Nyer, M., Yeung, A., Zulauf, C., & Wilens, T. (2020). College students: Mental health problems and treatment considerations. Acad Psychiatry, 39(5), 503-511. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40596-014-0205-9

4) Only 3.3 % (1 in 30) of college students have Bipolar Affective Disorder (BAD).

Even though only a relatively small number of college students suffer from BAD, the majority of these students will have had their first episode of depression or mania before entering college, and one-third of these individuals will have experienced their first episode before puberty (before age 12).

Pedrelli, P., Nyer, M., Yeung, A., Zulauf, C., & Wilens, T. (2020). College students: Mental health problems and treatment considerations. Acad Psychiatry, 39(5), 503-511. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40596-014-0205-9

5) The second leading cause of death among college students, after accidents (including those involving alcohol), is suicide.

Each year 1 in every 200 college students makes a suicide attempt. Given that there are close to 20 million college students in the United States, that means each year 10,000 college students attempt suicide. Far more make specific plans on how they would end their lives (32,000) or think about committing suicide (134,000).

Belk, N., Degolian, K., & Barham, K. (2019, April 18). Death and Dying III: Leading causes of death among college students. University of North Carolina. https://idst190.web.unc.edu/2019/04/college-student-death-causes

Pedrelli, P., Nyer, M., Yeung, A., Zulauf, C., & Wilens, T. (2020). College students: Mental health problems and treatment considerations. Acad Psychiatry, 39(5), 503-511. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40596-014-0205-9

6) Almost half of college students who withdrew from school due to a mental illness did not look for help or treatment.

The most common reason these students gave for not seeking help was the fear of being labeled or stigmatized. Despite the unrelenting efforts by national organizations (e.g., National Alliance for Mental Illness), celebrities (e.g., Emma Stone (Panic Disorder), Ellen DeGeneres (MDD), or Zayn Malik (Anxiety)), and physicians, about half of all Americans still view at least some mental illnesses as a sign of weakness.

Belk, N., Degolian, K., & Barham, K. (2019, April 18). Death and Dying III: Leading causes of death among college students. University of North Carolina. https://idst190.web.unc.edu/2019/04/college-student-death-causes

7) While most eating disorders start before college age, about 1 in 10 college students suffer from bulimia, anorexia, or binge eating disorder.

About 4 out of every 5 students with an eating disorder are female. That still leaves approximately 72,000 male college students suffering from an eating disorder. While most eating disorders begin in adolescence, many begin in late adolescence when teenagers first get to college at age 18 or 19. Purging behaviors often begin later than the eating disorder, itself, and college is a prime time for those with eating disorders to begin to engage in purging behaviors.

Pedrelli, P., Nyer, M., Yeung, A., Zulauf, C., & Wilens, T. (2020). College students: Mental health problems and treatment considerations. Acad Psychiatry, 39(5), 503-511. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40596-014-0205-9

8) While most people think of Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as a childhood illness, half of all cases continue into adulthood.

It is difficult to determine how many college students are suffering from ADHD. The reality is that much of the diagnosis is based on the reports of the students, themselves, and given the prevalence of drug abuse (including stimulants like Adderall used to treat ADHD), studies have repeatedly shown that the number of college students complaining of ADHD symptoms far exceeds the objective number. In reality, studies have found somewhere between 2% and 6% of college students are likely having significant issues due to ADHD. One-fourth of students receiving disability services have a diagnosis of ADHD.

Pedrelli, P., Nyer, M., Yeung, A., Zulauf, C., & Wilens, T. (2020). College students: Mental health problems and treatment considerations. Acad Psychiatry, 39(5), 503-511. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40596-014-0205-9

9) The incidence of stimulant abuse varies greatly across the country and at different colleges.

Studies have shown that about 6.9% of college students use stimulant medications that were not prescribed for them at some time over the previous year. Interestingly, there appears to be either a strong cultural or peer effect reflected in the usage as some colleges had no students reporting illegal usage while others reported illegal usage as high as 25%. Overall, male, white, fraternity members with lower GPAs were more likely to use nonprescribed stimulants than other groups and college students in the Northeastern part of the US reported the highest usage rates.

Source: Society for The Study of Addiction

McCabe, S. E., Knight, J. R., Teter, C. J., & Wechsler, H. (2004). Non-medical use of prescription stimulants among US college students: Prevalence and correlates from a national survey. Addiction, 100(1), 96-106. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1360-0443.2005.00944.x

10) Schizophrenia most often develops in the late teens to early twenties making college students the ideal age to develop a first psychotic break.

Young adults in college may start to experience the symptoms of schizophrenia which include social isolation, psychotic symptoms, and a decrease in intelligence and concentration. Nevertheless, given that schizophrenia is relatively rare in the general population, less than 0.1% of college students are believed to suffer from schizophrenia. It is important to realize, however, that an adolescent who develops the illness is almost certain to be unable to attend college. The incidence in the college-age population is significantly higher than the incidence in students attending college. And 1 out of every 20 individuals with schizophrenia die by suicide and not always at an age older than their early 20s.

Pedrelli, P., Nyer, M., Yeung, A., Zulauf, C., & Wilens, T. (2020). College students: Mental health problems and treatment considerations. Acad Psychiatry, 39(5), 503-511. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40596-014-0205-9

11) Autism and its associated illness (e.g., Asperger’s Disorder) affect around 1% of college students.

The effects of autistic disorders are particularly pronounced in college students as their difficulty with socialization often leads to isolation and a focus on academic achievement. Unusual behaviors and communication styles often make them outcasts. To be truly successful, plans need to be implemented before an adolescent with an autistic disorder goes to college to assist them with developing appropriate peer relationships.

Pedrelli, P., Nyer, M., Yeung, A., Zulauf, C., & Wilens, T. (2020). College students: Mental health problems and treatment considerations. Acad Psychiatry, 39(5), 503-511. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40596-014-0205-9

12) About 20% of all college students meet the criteria for Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD).

In the prior year, 12.5% (1 in 8) college students met the criteria for Alcohol Dependence while 7.8% (1 in 13) met the criteria for Alcohol Abuse. A growing concern among colleges and universities is the increasing recognition of binge drinking, defined as drinking 4 standard drinks for women and 5 for men within 2 hours. Almost half of all college students admit to binge drinking.

Pedrelli, P., Nyer, M., Yeung, A., Zulauf, C., & Wilens, T. (2020). College students: Mental health problems and treatment considerations. Acad Psychiatry, 39(5), 503-511. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40596-014-0205-9

13) The number one health hazard for college students is binge drinking which is the main cause of preventable injury and death.

Things like alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents and other risk-taking behaviors like unsafe sex and even criminal behavior such as sexual assault are all linked to binge drinking. Binge drinking impairs the part of the brain involved in decision-making and impulse control. Another concern is that a large percentage of college students continue to suffer from alcohol problems long after they have left college. Nearly 1 in 3 college students report meeting the criteria for binge drinking regularly.

Pedrelli, P., Nyer, M., Yeung, A., Zulauf, C., & Wilens, T. (2020). College students: Mental health problems and treatment considerations. Acad Psychiatry, 39(5), 503-511. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40596-014-0205-9

Villarosa-Hurlocker, M. C., & Madson, M. B. (2020). A latent profile analysis of social anxiety and alcohol use among college students. Addict Behav, 104, 1-8. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.addbeh.2019.106284

14) Almost one-half of all college students with Social Anxiety Disorder also have an Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD).

Given the fact that social anxiety usually begins in childhood or early adolescence, it usually starts well before the onset of AUD. One question that remains is if the treatment of SAD before college can significantly lower the incidence of AUD among socially anxious college students. The research to date suggests that socially anxious individuals engage in more hazardous drinking and report more negative consequences of alcohol consumption regardless of the amount of alcohol consumed.

Villarosa-Hurlocker, M. C., & Madson, M. B. (2020). A latent profile analysis of social anxiety and alcohol use among college students. Addict Behav, 104, 1-8. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.addbeh.2019.106284

15) Nicotine use is also a common substance used by college students with over 15% (over 300,000) students reporting use of either traditional cigarettes (7.1%) or e-cigarettes (8.6%) regularly.

Although somewhat more college students are using electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) versus traditional combustible nicotine cigarettes, both types lead to the ingestion of nicotine and often the diagnosis of nicotine dependence. Interestingly, students with any mental illness diagnosis and those who engage in binge drinking are significantly more likely to use some form of nicotine regularly. Students are about 50% more likely to use nicotine if they have a mental illness and more than twice as likely if they engage in binge drinking versus more moderate drinking.

Source: Addictive Behaviors

Hefner, K. R., Sollazzo, A., Mullaney, S., Coker, K. L., & Sofuoglu, M. (2000). E-cigarettes, alcohol use, and mental health: Use and perceptions of e-cigarettes among college students, by alcohol use and mental health status. Addict Behav., 91, 12-20. https://doi:10.1016/j.addbeh.2018.10.040

16) Cannabis use is very common among college students with a many as 1 in 5 students regularly using marijuana during college.

It has been shown that academic performance is negatively affected by cannabis use with problems with memory, concentration, and cognitive functioning. Even motivation is decreased by cannabis use which likely contributes to these problems leading to poorer grades and more students dropping out of college. Ultimately, those students who continue to use cannabis regularly after college demonstrate lower success in the working world, more job losses, and less occupational satisfaction.

Pedrelli, P., Nyer, M., Yeung, A., Zulauf, C., & Wilens, T. (2020). College students: Mental health problems and treatment considerations. Acad Psychiatry, 39(5), 503-511. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40596-014-0205-9

17) Binge drinking combined with cannabis use is even more detrimental to college students.

Those college students who engage in binge drinking are about 10 times as likely to use cannabis than those who drink less alcohol. Throughout their lives, binge drinkers in college are 9 times more likely to continue to use cannabis throughout their lifetimes. The concomitant use of alcohol and cannabis is known to result in more severe negative consequences than those of abuse alcohol or cannabis but not both.

Pedrelli, P., Nyer, M., Yeung, A., Zulauf, C., & Wilens, T. (2020). College students: Mental health problems and treatment considerations. Acad Psychiatry, 39(5), 503-511. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40596-014-0205-9

18) About 1 in 10 college students regularly use prescription medications not prescribed for them or misused medications that were prescribed for them.

The most commonly misused and abused medications include pain killers (e.g., Percocet/oxycodone), benzodiazepines (e.g., Xanax), and amphetamines (e.g., Adderall). Once again, the most prevalent use was stimulants like Adderall among white males who were members of fraternities who had lower grade point averages than college peers. The number of graduating college students who had ever misused or abused prescription medications during their college years is approximately 1 out of 3. However, there is considerable variability in the prevalence of abuse based on the type of medication and geographic location (e.g., stimulant abuse is far greater in the Northeast of the US). In the past 3 years, the number of college students regularly abusing opioids has dropped by 50% to 2.7% while those using stimulants increased significantly and roughly doubled to 6.9% with a continual increase every year.

Pedrelli, P., Nyer, M., Yeung, A., Zulauf, C., & Wilens, T. (2020). College students: Mental health problems and treatment considerations. Acad Psychiatry, 39(5), 503-511. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40596-014-0205-9

19) Since 2000, the rate of misused and abused prescription medication overdoses has steadily increased among college students.

The biggest culprits include benzodiazepines (e.g., Xanax, Valium, Klonopin, etc.) and opioid pain medications (e.g., oxycodone, Percocet, Vicodin, OxyContin). Another major problem is that many of those who abuse prescription medications do so while consuming alcohol. Alcohol, benzodiazepines, and opioids are all respiratory depressants, and the combination can easily cause coma and death without the individual realizing how much depressant they have consumed. The number of college students who die from respiratory depression due to abuse of alcohol, benzodiazepines, and opioids, alone or in combination is approximately 250 every year.

Pedrelli, P., Nyer, M., Yeung, A., Zulauf, C., & Wilens, T. (2020). College students: Mental health problems and treatment considerations. Acad Psychiatry, 39(5), 503-511. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40596-014-0205-9

20) Stigma is a major problem preventing college students from obtaining much-needed mental health treatment.

Studies have found that among college students, public stigma (the fear of what others will think) is much stronger than personal stigma (one’s own belief about mental illness and seeking treatment). The level of personal stigma was greatest among those students who were younger, male, Asian, from outside the United States, more religious, and from a lower socio-economic class. While public stigma was much strong than personal stigma, it was a student’s idea of personal stigma that prevented the student from seeking or accepting any kind of help (therapy, medication, general support).

Eisenberg, D., Downs, M. F., Golberstein, E., & Zivin, K. (2009). Stigma and help seeking for mental health among college students. Med Care Res Rev., 66(5), 522-541. https://doi.org/10.1177/1077558709335173

21) In a study of over 150,000 college students, from 2007 to 2017, the rate of treatment at some point in the prior year increased from 19% to 34%.

Also, the percent of students with a lifetime diagnosis of any mental illness rose 39% during that same period. Overall, rates of depression and suicide increased, but the prevalence of stigma (personal and public) decreased during the same period. Unfortunately, with the significant increase in students seeking treatment, many colleges and universities have reported strained services with insufficient providers for the number of students now seeking help. Skepticism and a lack of urgency were the two biggest barriers for those who were suffering from a mental illness but did not seek treatment.

Lipson, S. K., Lattie, E. G., & Eisenberg, D. (2019). Increased rates of mental health service utilization by U.S. college students: 10-year population-level trends (2007-2017). Psychiatr Serv., 70(1), 60-63. https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.ps.201800332

22) The most commonly endorsed reason given by 55% of the college students who were not receiving mental health services was “I prefer to deal with issues on my own.”

Other commonly endorsed answers were:

“Stress is normal in college/graduate school.” (47%)

“I don’t have enough time.” (43%)

“I get a lot of support from other sources.” (33%)

“It’s too costly, and I don’t have the money.” (33%)

“I have not had any need for mental health services.” (28%)

“I question whether medication or therapy is helpful.” (27%)

“The problem will get better by itself.” (26%)

“I worry what others will think of me if I get mental health treatment.” (21%)

Eisenberg, D., Hunt, J., Speer, N., & Zivin, K. (2011). Mental health service utilization among college students in the United States. J Nerv Ment Dis., 199, 301-308.

https://doi:10.1097/NMD.0b013e3182175123

23) The most commonly endorsed reason given by 67% of the college students who did receive mental health services was “I decided on my own to seek help.”

Other commonly endorsed answers were:

“A family member encouraged or pressured me to seek help.”  (37%)

“A friend encouraged or pressured me to seek help.” (21%)

“Someone other than a friend or family member encouraged me to seek help.” (7%)

‘‘I was mandated to seek help by campus staff.” (3%)

Eisenberg, D., Hunt, J., Speer, N., & Zivin, K. (2011). Mental health service utilization among college students in the United States. J Nerv Ment Dis., 199, 301-308.

https://doi:10.1097/NMD.0b013e3182175123

24) Gay males and gay/bisexual females report using more counseling services than heterosexual males or females.

Bisexual males and questioning females were less likely to consult a family member than heterosexual males and females. Bisexual females who belong to an ethnic or racial minority were less likely to consult a friend than white bisexual females. Religion was mentioned negatively as making it more difficult to cope with being different by more gay and questioning males and females than heterosexual ones. In sum, family and clergy did not serve as a major source of support for the college LGBTQ community. The reasons that the college LGBTQ community uses mental health services more than the heterosexual population remain unclear as not all of the LGBTQ study participants discussed sexual or gender issues with their therapists.

Source: LGBT Health Journal

Baams, L., De Luca, S. M., & Brownson, C. (2018). Use of mental health services among college students by sexual orientation. LGBT Health., 5(7), 421-430.

https://doi:10.1089/lgbt.2017.0225

25) Although the effects are relatively small, an acceptance-facilitating intervention on college campuses appears to increase the number of college students who intend to seek treatment.

This study had 1,712 German college students complete a mental health survey. The students were divided into two groups. One group received an additional acceptance-facilitating intervention (AFI) by giving this group information about symptoms they endorsed and providing personalized risk feedback. Previous research using AFI showed good results in increasing peoples’ intention to seek medical treatment. The second group was a control group that did not receive any AFI. Overall, the results suggest that for every 15 students provided with AFI, one would change from not likely to likely to seek mental health services. While this effect is small, it was greatest for students with Panic Disorder, those who were not heterosexual, and students who believed they were in worse physical health compared with their peers.

Source: International Journal of Methods In Psychiatric Research

 

Sources:

1, Pedrelli, P., Nyer, M., Yeung, A., Zulauf, C., & Wilens, T. (2020). College students: Mental health problems and treatment considerations. Acad Psychiatry, 39(5), 503-511. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40596-014-0205-9

24.

25.Ebert, D. D., Franke, M., Kählke, F., Küchler, A. M., Bruffaerts, R., Mortier, P., Karyotaki, E., Alonso, J., Cuijpers, P., Berking, M., Auerbach, R. P., Kessler, R. C., & Baumeister, H. (2019). Increasing intentions to use mental health services among university students. Results of a pilot randomized controlled trial within the World Health Organization’s World Mental Health International College Student Initiative. Int J Methods Psychiatr Res., 28(Special Issue), e1754-e1766. https://doi.org/10.1002/mpr.1754

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *