Depression Impacts College Drop Out Rate

College students

According to statistics, 50% of students who attend college drop out or fail out. Though there are a variety of reasons this number is so high – including financial – scientists have learned that certain types of depression directly relate to lower grade point averages and higher dropout rates.

University of Michigan’s Daniel Eisenberg led the study, which surveyed 2,800 students online. Students answered questions about a variety of mental health issues, and completed a follow-up survey two years later. Many students could function fine in school, depending on the type of depression they had. However, depressed students with an accompanying loss of interest were twice as likely to drop out. In students who had depression with anxiety, academic performance was even lower.

College students may be even less likely to seek help because they believe the stress they experience is normal. Likewise, different students have different levels of stigma about mental health. The study found that males, students from lower-income backgrounds, and Asian students report higher levels of stigma. These students can experience even more pressure as a result.

The next step is to conduct a large randomized trial of screening with treatment of depressed students. Perhaps, by measuring academic outcomes more carefully, researchers can determine the value of reducing the dropout rate and improving GPA.

According to a 2009 MTVu/Associated Mental Health Poll:*

  • Over 85% reported feeling stressed on a daily basis. Most of the stress was related to school work, worrying about their GPA, and financial problems.
  • One out of 10 students polled showed signs of serious depression.
  • 17% of students overall report that their friends have talked about wanting to end their lives.
  • 10% say a friend has made a suicide attempt
  • 7% of students have seriously thought about ending their own lives in the past year.
  • Only 20% said they would talk to a counselor about getting help for their depression. Most said they would turn to a family member or friend. *

For students experiencing depression, it is important to seek help. Whether dealing with chronic depression or a bout of depression during a difficult time, campus counseling centers or health centers can assist students with recovery.

*All statistical data was from the mtvU AP 2009 Economy, College Stress and Mental Health Poll. Data game from interviews of 2240 students from 40 institutions.

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