Depression and anxiety are nearly seven times more common among graduate students than in the general population, a new study finds.
Researchers surveyed nearly 2,300 graduate students 90 percent who were working on their PhD and 10 percent pursuing a master’s. They found that 41 percent had moderate to severe anxiety and 39 percent had moderate to severe depression.
In the population as a whole, the rates of both conditions are about 6 percent, according to the researchers, from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.
They also found that the rate of anxiety and depression was higher among female and transgender/gender-nonconforming graduate students than among their male counterparts.
Rates of anxiety and depression were:
- 43 percent for anxiety and 41 percent for depression among females,
- 55 percent and 57 percent among transgender/gender-nonconforming students,
- 34 and 35 percent among males.
The researchers described the rates of anxiety and depression as “strikingly high.”
The study appears in the March issue of the journal Nature Biotechnology.
“There is a growing cry for help from graduate students across the globe who struggle with significant mental health concerns,” the authors wrote. “Despite increased discussion of the topic, there remains a dire need to resolve our understanding of the mental health issues in the trainee population.”
For instance, when asked if they have a good work/life balance, the majority of students with anxiety or depression said they did not.
“Work-life balance is hard to attain in a culture where it is frowned upon to leave the laboratory before the sun goes down,” the authors wrote.
They urged universities to establish or expand mental health and career development resources available to graduate students. Faculty training and “a change in the academic culture” also are needed, they concluded.