A new study conducted by researchers at UCL has found that young people in higher education in England face a slightly higher risk of experiencing depression and anxiety compared to their peers who are not attending higher education. The study, published in The Lancet Public Health, is the first of its kind to provide evidence of higher levels of depression and anxiety among higher education students in comparison to non-students.
In the study, data from two longitudinal studies were analyzed, which included a total of 10,960 participants. The researchers discovered that there was a small difference in symptoms of depression and anxiety between students and non-students at the ages of 18-19. This difference persisted even after taking into account various factors such as socioeconomic status, parents’ education, and alcohol use.
One interesting finding from the study was that this difference disappeared by the age of 25, suggesting that the increased risk of depression and anxiety among higher education students may be temporary. Dr. Gemma Lewis, the lead author of the study, highlighted the importance of addressing mental health issues during the early years of higher education, as it can have long-term benefits for students’ overall well-being and academic success.
Although the study did not provide a definitive explanation for why higher education students may be more at risk of depression and anxiety, the researchers suggested that academic and financial pressures could play a role. It is also worth noting that the association between higher education and mental health risks has only recently emerged, possibly due to increased financial pressures and concerns about achieving high results in the current economic and social context.
The findings of this study are concerning, as it was expected that higher education students would have better mental health outcomes due to their generally privileged backgrounds. Further research is needed to better understand the specific risk factors and develop effective strategies to support the mental health of young people in higher education.
The study was commissioned and funded by the Department for Education in England, highlighting the importance of addressing mental health issues among students as a global health priority. Improving our understanding of modifiable risk factors for depression and anxiety is crucial, and it is clear that supporting the mental health of young people is of utmost importance.