Money Matters - Simplified

Depression rising among American college goers

More American college goers are showing signs of depression these days. Nearly 250 to 300 students are seeking college counseling services help each year.

American college goers, it seems are getting more depressed. According to the latest study, more cases of severe mental illness are being reported among American college goers than a decade ago.

More students with preexisting mental problems, including moderate and severe depression, are joining campuses across America. However, positively, more willing to seek help, researchers say.

Also, while the use of prescription drugs to treat psychiatric illness has also risen significantly over the past decade, the thoughts of suicide are far less common in today’s students, the researchers reveal.

The dependency on psychiatric drugs for depression, anxiety, and ADHD also rose twofold. The usage stood at 24 percent in 2009 as against 11 percent in 1998.

Details of the study
The findings, presented Thursday at the American Psychological Association's annual meeting in San Diego, are based on an assessment of 3,256 American college students, all of whom had sought college counseling support between September 1997 and August 2009.

The students, screened for mental disorders, suicidal thoughts, and self-injurious behavior, were more likely to exhibit mood and anxiety disorders now than they were a decade ago.

However, the intensity of the disorder remained mild over time, researchers found.

But the researchers did notice a slight rise in the number of students diagnosed with a single mental disorder. The figures rose from 93 percent in 1998 to 96 percent in 2009.

Furthermore, the incidence of students suffering from moderate to severe depression rose from 34 percent to 41 percent during the study span, the researchers said.

The dependency on psychiatric drugs for depression, anxiety, and ADHD also rose twofold. The usage stood at 24 percent in 2009 as against 11 percent in 1998.

The silver lining, however, was the fact that the rates of suicidal thoughts declined over time; from 26 percent in 1998 to just 11 percent by 2009.

The probable reasons for the change
The competitive market scenario, researchers believe, is the most probable cause behind the apparent change.

“Maybe expectations are such that in general more people are attempting to get a college degree, as it's become more essential to employment," study author John C. Guthman, director of student counseling at Hofstra University's division of student affairs, said.

"It could also be that colleges are seen as more supportive environments, and there is more outreach to help students than a decade ago," Guthman noted.

"It could also be that medications have improved, and students that may not have been able to go to campus a decade back are now able to function well enough to go and succeed," Guthman added.