(Reuters Health) – More than doubled suicidal thinking, severe depression and self-injury rates among college students under ten years, national studies suggest.
Looking at data from two major annual college undergraduate surveys covering the years 2007-2018, researchers found the mental health indicators to be worsening, including overall depression, anxiety, low growth and suicide planning and efforts. particularly in the second half of the study period.
“It suggests that there is something wrong in the lives of young people and that anything that happened is likely to happen around 2012, or 2013,” said the study, author Jean Twenge. She noted that this was about the time when smart phones emerged and social media changed from being optional to being compulsory among young people.
“It's hard to think of any other event that started around that time, and then it went until 2018,” said Twenge, professor of psychology at San Diego State University in California and author of the book “iGen,” by Reuters Health the phone.
There are university consultation centers reporting increases in student usage of campus mental health services. Twenge and her colleagues wanted to explore whether more students were in need of help, or actual increases in the number of students with mental ill-health.
The team looked at data from two large voluntary surveys where students answered questions about recent experiences with symptoms of depression, anxiety, self-harm and other mental health problems.
More than 610,000 undergraduates participated in a single survey between the fall semester in 2011 and the spring semester of 2018. Its average age was around 21, two thirds were women and almost three-quarters were white. In the other survey, over 177,000 undergraduates participated between 2007 and 2018. Most were aged between 18 and 22 years, 57% were female and 74% were white.
Reports of suicide attempts increased from 0.7% of survey participants in 2013 to 1.8% in 2018, while the proportion of students reporting severe depression rose from 9.4% to 21.1% over the same period.
The moderate severe depression rate rose from 23.2% in 2007 to 41.1% in 2018, while moderate anxiety rates rose sharply from 17.9% in 2013 to 34.4% in 2018.
The study was not designed to determine the causes of increases in mental health issues among college students, although the authors comment on various possibilities. For example, the use of smart phones with worse sleep quality and fewer face-to-face interactions, both considered essential for mental health, were written by the researchers in the Journal of Adolescent Health.
While colleges have made progress in the provision of mental health services and treatment to students, the results indicate that current resources on campuses are inadequate, note Paola Pedrelli, professor at Harvard Medical School in Boston. did not participate in the study.
Students may also avoid using resources on campus because some colleges may expel students who have suicidal ideals or who may have to go on medical leave, to avoid liability for student suicides.
“It's like a double sword. Sometimes pupils could report their signs, and they may be forced, ”she told Reuters Health in a telephone interview.
In Ann Arbor, Daniel Eisenberg from the University of Michigan School of Public Health believes that colleges should invest in online resources to supplement traditional campus counseling services.
“It is not as simple as employing more consultants or more mental health services. That's what the college campus was doing to some extent in recent years, and it doesn't seem to be reversing this trend, ”Eisenberg said, who wasn't involved in the study, in a telephone interview.
“The solution is likely to be a combination of continuing to increase traditional services. But also some newer approaches, technology-based types or other forms of creative approaches, involving peer groups or something, perhaps, rather than what we have been doing in recent years. ”
SOURCE: bit.ly/2MGbBoQ Journal of Adolescent Health, online July 3, 2019.
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