Psychology in the News

April 2, 2010

Anxiety, depression and grades

Filed under: anxiety, depression — Tags: , , , — intro2psych @ 1:32 pm

by 105 student

Skinner Hall by Josh de Leeuw

Skinner Hall by Josh de Leeuw

Have anxiety and depression affected your college experience? Of course, most of us have felt a tinge of ennui on a cloudy winter day, moped after a breakup, or cried and pulled out a few hairs studying for finals. But the effects of depression and anxiety disorders can be a serious detriment to college performance.

In the year 2000, 76% of college students reportedly felt “overwhelmed” and 22% were unable to function as a result of their depression (American College Health Association, 2001). Major depressive disorder is characterized by extremely low moods, a sense of worthlessness and lack of interest or enjoyment in typically pleasurable or rewarding activities (Myers, 2006).

Recent studies connecting decreased cravings for pleasure to loss of interest or pleasure in rewarding activities could help to explain poor academic performance of depressed college students. Depressed college students may be less likely to work for grade-oriented rewards.

In one of these studies, participants played a video game involving a hard button-pressing task and an easier button-pressing task to obtain a greater or lesser monetary reward. Participants were informed of the probability of winning the reward before completing the task and then were allowed to choose which tasks they completed. Researchers observed that participants with symptoms of depression (loss of pleasure in activities) were less likely to attempt the harder task for a larger reward, especially if there was a lower probability of winning the reward.

The age range of the typical college student, 15-24, is included in the age group of individuals most likely to have major depressive disorder (Blazer, Kessler, McGonangle, & Swartz, 1994). Among college students, an increase in levels of depression has been expressly related to an increase in levels of college stress (Dyson & Renk, 2006; MacGeorge et al., 2005). Stressors in college can include academic requirements and the transition from home to college life (Ross, Neibling, & Heckert, 1999). New research from the University of Michigan shows that college students with depression are twice as likely as their peers to drop out of school. Symptoms of loss of interest and/or pleasure in activities were shown to be related to lower grade point averages. Students with both depression and anxiety showed especially poor performance in school.

Anxiety disorders are characterized by constant, severe anxiety and tension, whose causes are not always identifiable (Myers, 2006).  Recent studies show that anxious students have more difficulty avoiding distraction and alternating attention from one task to another than less anxious students. The research also demonstrated that while those with anxiety can do as well as those without, they could only do this with greater effort and in some cases, long term stress.


American College Health Association. (2001). National College Health Assessment: Reference group report, Spring 2000. Baltimore: Author.

Blazer, D. G., Kessler, R. C., McGonangle, K. A., & Swartz, M. S. (1994). The prevalence and distribution of major depressive disorder in a national community sample: The National Comorbidity Study. Comprehensive Psychology, 35, 130-140

Dyson, R., & Renk, K. (2006). Freshman adaptation to university life: Depressive symptoms, stress, and coping. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 62, 1231-1244.

Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) (2009, June 26). Anxiety’s Hidden Cost In Academic Performance. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 14, 2009, from /releases/2009/06/090623090713.htm

Myers, David G. Psychology Eighth Edition in Modules. New York: Worth, 2006.

Ross, S. E., Neibling, B. C., & Heckert, T. M. (1999). Sources of stress among college students. College Student Journal, 33, 312-317.

University of Michigan (2009, July 7). Students With Depression Twice As Likely To Drop Out Of College. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 14, 2009, from /releases/2009/07/090706161302.htm

Vanderbilt University (2009, August 16). Worth The Effort? Not If You’re Depressed. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 14, 2009, from /releases/2009/08/090812181437.htm


  1. Depression is clearly very common in college students, often due to the great amounts of stress, lack of sleep, weather can be a cause of depression, and poor eating habits are thought to contribute as well. There are, however many ways that depression can be treated in addition to antidepressants. St, Johns Wort, for example is an herbal tablet that has been used to help improve state of mind, help with sleep problems, and decrease nervousness, sadness and fear. Clinical trials suggest that it is more effective than a placebo in cases of mild and moderate depression, and so not have the side effects that are seen with antidepressants. However it should not be used in cases of sever depression, in which case more serious action should be taken. So if one were to feel less motivated, fatigued, worthless or have other symptoms of depression, they should consider this as a mood enhancer that may alleviate these negative effects that depression can have on life.

    Comment by Nikki Aldeborgh — April 6, 2010 @ 4:36 pm

  2. One interesting relationship is that between hours of sleep and depression. A 2010 study by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that adolescents who slept for 5 or fewer hours a night were 70 percent more likely to experience depression and nearly 50 percent more likely to experience suicide ideation. However, the mechanism by which sleep deprivation is linked to depression and suicidal ideation is still unclear. Further studies may include examining the effects of sleep deprivation on the brain and seeing how those brain changes can be linked to depression. This is especially important, considering how much sleep patterns change during the college years.

    American Academy of Sleep Medicine (2010, January 2). Earlier bedtimes may help protect adolescents against depression and suicidal thoughts. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 7, 2010, from¬ /releases/2010/01/100101011828.htm

    Comment by Alyssa Alcasabas Pabalan — April 7, 2010 @ 6:05 pm

  3. Another interesting relationship between teenagers and anxiety is the observed effect of higher stress levels among immigrant adolescents. A study was done to explore the phenomena of increased suicide rates and psychological distress among adolescents who had immigrated to America. One important factor that determined the well-being of the adolescent’s psychological state was the presence or lack of parental figures in the teenager’s life. Specifically, the researchers looked at Korean students who had moved to the US. Among the 4 types of immigrants they observed (immigrants who moved without their parents, immigrants who moved with their parents, Korean students remaining in Korea, and American students), those who had traveled alone, without their parents, had the highest suicide rates. Immigrant or not, the researchers also found a clear link between a lack of parental support and not living with both parents as a cause of distress and mental instability for all teenagers that they observed. This study clearly sends a message that adolescence is a time of great growth and development, both emotionally and physically for the teenager involved. This also means that adolescents are most vulnerable at this time, and the support of parental figures is more important for a teenager’s health than anyone could have previously imagined.

    Cho, Y.B., Haslam, N. (2009, May 23). Suicidal Ideation and Distress Among Immigrant Adolescents: The Role of Acculturation, Life Stress, and Social Support. Journal of Youth and Adolescence. Retrieved from

    Comment by Elaine Cheung — April 11, 2010 @ 10:32 pm

  4. Another interesting study relating to your study Alyssa involves how depression can cause problems with sleeping. A 2009 study also by the American Academy of Sleep found that postpartum depression may aggravate an already damaged quality of sleep. Sleeping difficulties have been found to be a side effect of depression. When you combine your study with mine, a nasty cycle between sleep and depression may arise that can be extremely difficult to get out of.

    American Academy of Sleep Medicine (2009, July 3). Poor Sleep Is Independently Associated With Depression In Postpartum Women. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 12, 2010, from /releases/2009/07/090701082710.htm

    Comment by Casey Rice — April 11, 2010 @ 11:11 pm

  5. I can easily see how college can effect people. The transition, meeting new people, different types of work, and just differences all around can really take a toll on some people. In D’Zurilla & Sheedy’s article, they talk about how freshman, especially, can be very prone to stress.
    Another study of American and International students, from the International Journal of Stress Management, showed that the American students reported higher self-imposed stressors and greater behavioral reactions to stressors than international students.
    These thing can greatly change someone’s life and can be very hard to get out of.


    Comment by Lindsay Haggerty — April 16, 2010 @ 10:16 pm

  6. The relationship between anxiety and performance in school is an interesting topic to analyze. I personally agree with Alyssa’s comment that anxiety is a factor that can be mitigated through parental involvement. The use of medication and herbal alternatives does seem to have scientific merit. However, these can be significantly improved with careful mentoring by an adult with a keen interest in the development of the college studemt

    Comment by Arjun Agarwala — April 17, 2010 @ 5:57 pm

  7. Another interesting effect on emotions during the transition from high school to college is the struggle that parents have with this new separation. It seems like parents are being just as affected by this change as much as students. In a fairly recent MSNBC article, the issue of a mother leaving her child for college was discussed. The article talked about some of the struggles parents go through when they switch from a more intense and active child rearing stage of their lives to a more inactive one. It’s hard for many parents to send their children to school and sever this strong connection and I’m sure this takes its toll on students who are just learning to live in the real world by themselves.

    JoNel Aleccia, New Start, sad end: College kid’s parents grapple with letting go, MSNBC (September 1, 2009),

    Comment by Samantha Garcia — April 18, 2010 @ 9:28 pm

  8. It’s obvious to say that there are always going to be college students with depression and that is a serious issue in today’s college life. I agree with the study suggesting a correlation between increased depression and increased stress. As students become more overwhelmed with work, relationships, and often time management, students tend not to have the most brightest and cheerful moods. Sometimes this overwhelming feeling of stress can create a feeling of defeat within students, thus resulting in the students to feel more sad and depressed. I believe that in order to cope with stress and mild depression, one should set aside some time just for them self. During this time, they should try to listen to music they like, play a video game, etc. Even if they have lost the pleasure they use to feel while doing these things, they should at least give them a try as to potentially get some kind of pleasure out of them. However, if students have a more serious case of depression, they should seek out some medical treatment, because from my opinion, college is too amazing of an experience and opportunity to live passively through.

    Comment by John Lee — April 19, 2010 @ 2:59 pm

  9. lAnother thing that students often find is a big change between home life and college life is the prevalence of illicit substances such as alcohol, marijuana, and other illegal drugs. Accordingly, college students are some of the most common substance-abusers. This in itself could be partially responsible for depression in college students, as substance abuse, specifically with alcohol, has been shown to be associated with depression. Alcohol-related states such as intoxication and being “hungover” are associated with dysphoric mood states because alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. The frequency of depression in college students is probably the result of many different combined factors, an important one of which might be substance abuse.

    Comment by Charlotte Gutfreund — April 27, 2010 @ 2:20 pm

  10. Depression can be vicious cycle, especially entering college as a freshman, you become anxious and worried and eager about how you will fit in and make friends which may lead to depression and then when you have the depression it inhibits your social processes continuously contributing to the cycle. The college students diet normally consist of caffeine (for staying awake those extra hours) alcohol (for partying on weekends) and foods high in fats and sugars, not only are these things just plain unhealthy but they also have the tendency to prolong depression.

    Also, speaking of cycles, women have twice the frequency of depression as men in between the stages of puberty and menopause. While in college, many women are forced to deal with the added symptoms of pmdd and pms which tend to share the same symptoms of depression such as feeling sad or hopeless, low self esteem, feeling anxious, sudden mood swings, feeling irritable, problems in concentrating, feeling tired, not participating in enjoyable activities and feeling overwhelmed.


    Comment by Alyssa Pratt — April 28, 2010 @ 5:02 pm

  11. I find the loss of interest in rewarding activities explanation of why depression negatively affects academic performance very interesting. Without this explanation I would have attributed the effect of depression on grades to the Yerkes-Dodson law, in that depression is often associated with increased anxiety and high anxiety would put you far to the right on the Yerkes-Dodson curve of arousal, thereby negatively affecting performance. However, the hypothesis that depression would reduce a student’s interest in working for grade-oriented rewards seems more relevant, direct, and compelling than the notion of increased arousal causing academic problems.

    Comment by Christopher Lloyd — May 2, 2010 @ 10:47 pm

  12. As it has been brought up home life and college life differ greatly in the availability and use of illicit drugs. This, in addiction to the direct effects of the drugs, such as alcohol a depressant, marijuana or ecstasy, has effects that are often overlooked. Often college freshman have not indulged in drinking before there time at college. The social scene on most college campus’s pressures people to drink and conform to the “social norms” that occur on weekends. As students feel pressure to go out on weekends, they feel an anxiety by being torn between social pressures and pressures to do well academically. Often students will party on Saturdays with hopes of completing work on Sundays only to find out that there bodies are not able to process the substance well and they get hangovers. This leads to a domino effect of not being able to finish work and having more pressure and anxiety leading to hopelessness and depression. With this, as has been mentioned, are the effects that the drugs themselves have on the mind leading to depression and dependence which only adds to the anxiety and depression, spinning the person into a downward spiral. This is supported by a study done on students who used ecstasy at a college university in the Mid-West. The results showed that partying and ecstasy use led to both a decline in grade point average as well as overall happiness, and also that the use of one drug increased the students chance of binge-drinking or smoking, which perpetuates the cycle.

    Comment by Christopher Toffoli — May 3, 2010 @ 8:51 pm

  13. Depression in college students is unfortunately extremely common. The pressures of being on one’s own and away from home (including family and friends) can cause even the most confident individual to long for some safety zone. What is especially sad is that students who are depressed are twice as likely to drop out of college than those not depressed. This is partially due to a loss in interest (which is associated with lower grade point). This means that someone who is depressed could appear to be functioning fine academically when they may be at risk.

    University of Michigan (2009, July 7). Students With Depression Twice As Likely To Drop Out Of College. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from /releases/2009/07/090706161302.htm

    Comment by Tracy B — May 4, 2010 @ 12:37 am

  14. We can see that college age students are clearly in a large risk group for depression in anxiety. As the blog post stated, we belong to the age group which is most likely to suffer from these issues. More than that however, we have recently dealt with many things that are very stressful. Moving away from home, meeting many new individuals, taking on several new responsibilities, and other things that college students do on a regular basis put us at high risk to develop anxiety and depression.

    It seems that college students should reflect on this and plan something into their lives to be able to get rid of stress. Anxiety is a natural preparation for the “fight or flight” response, so it makes sense to go out and do soemthing to get rid ofthis build up stress. Going for a run or playing a sport thus makes a lot of sense. It’s clear that all college students need to find some way to vent the amount of stress that we have.

    Comment by Clayton Masterman — May 4, 2010 @ 10:11 am

  15. As some people above have mentioned, sleep also plays a role in the effects of depression/anxiety on college students, especially depression. Insomnia messes with the natural sleep system, and causes the first four cycles of sleep to be bypassed in favor of REM sleep. Extended wakefulness messes with the production of serotonin, and depression is partly attributed to a malfunction in the serotonin system. Sleeplessness basically just augments the symptoms of depression. So then, in addition to the exercise “cure,” making sure one gets a decent amount of sleep is also very important in battling depression in college students.

    Comment by Rebecca Shulbank-Smith — May 7, 2010 @ 2:32 pm

  16. From my experience, the last paragraph in this article does not add up… Would a student suffering from “constant, severe anxiety and tension” be more easily distracted, and therefore more stressed over grades? I guess procrastinating can lead to short bursts of anxiety when deadlines are near, but I would not sympathize with someone who is easily distracted and mismanages their time. If they stressed over small tasks and this interfered with their daily life, that would be worthier of a mental disorder diagnosis. Someone who is truly concerned about schoolwork will not compromise their performance.

    Comment by Charlene Button — February 20, 2012 @ 11:20 pm

  17. Despite the fact that it is relatively well-known that college students are at increased risk for suffering from treatable depression and anxiety, there is a great deal of stigma attached to the diagnosis which can impede getting help. Confronting the reality of mental illness is no simple matter. Instead of receiving compassion and acceptance, people with mental illnesses may experience wrongful hostility, discrimination, and stigma. Speaking from personal experience – having seen multiple family members facing various disorders – the associated stigma is toxic. I’ve seen what they endure: the struggle to get through the day, and the deep hurt every time someone describes them as “crazy.” Though modern medicine has made great progress with understanding mental health disorders in the last century, society has a long way to go. It is often easy to forget that our brain, like all of our other organs, is vulnerable to disease. Many mental illnesses are believed to have biological causes, just like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes (though environmental and experiential factors are also important). But psychological problems are often seen quite differently than other bodily ailments. It’s an odd paradox that a society that can speak unabashedly about topics that were once unspeakable remains hauntingly silent when it comes to mental illness – the mentally ill frighten and embarrass us, even when the diagnosis is mild, treatable depression. People with mental illness are often perceived as dangerous, or as burdens to society. Many of the misconceptions which persist about people with mental illness are perpetuated by media coverage of sensationalized crimes where people with mental illness are involved, or indulged celebrities who are out of control due to psychological problems; comedians who make fun of the “humor” of disability; national advertisers that use stigmatizing images; and other sources that are easily accessible and pervasive. Why do I stress the idea of stigma? Stigma keeps people (students included!) away from seeking treatment – it is estimated that two-thirds of people will go without the treatment they need to function as contributing members to society. Research has shown that people are reluctant to seek professional help for depression, especially from mental health professionals. This may be because of the impact of stigma which can involve people’s own responses to depression and help-seeking (self stigma) as well as their perceptions of others’ negative responses (perceived stigma) (Barney et al. 2006). From this particular study, the research team found that many people reported they would feel embarrassed about seeking help from professionals, and believed that other people would have a negative reaction to them if they sought such help. Some expected professionals to respond negatively to them. Ultimately, self-embarrassment and expectations that others would respond negatively predicted the likelihood of help seeking from professional sources (Barney et al. 2006).

    Barney, L.J. et al. 2006. Stigma about depression and its impact on help-seeking intentions. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry. 40(1): 51-54.

    Comment by Arial S. — February 26, 2012 @ 9:36 pm

  18. Depression is a big issue that is addressed to many college students. College is a big change for many. Teenagers are transitioning from a dependent world to a life that is completely independent. Many teenagers live over 3000 miles away from their guardians. This transition can be very difficult for many and can cause depression. Some schools like Cornell University in Ithaca, NY get a very minimal amount of sun, which can affect people’s moods and motivation. Cornell University with their academic rigor and high percentage of depressed students, has a bridge on campus named the “suicide bridge”. My cousin who attended Cornell University had to transfer colleges because she felt unmotivated to do work and depressed. Depression now is very hard to detect and can easily be hidden, which is why it is such a issue.

    Comment by Ava — February 26, 2012 @ 10:41 pm

  19. Depression and anxiety among college students has become an increasing prevalent issue. According to John Guthman, PhD, author of the study and director of student counseling services at Hofstra University, “in the last 10 years, a shift in the needs of students seeking counseling services [has become] apparent.” Guthman and his colleagues “looked at the records of 3,256 college students who accessed college counseling support between September 1997 and August 2009 at a mid-sized private university.” “In 1998, 93 percent of the students coming into the clinic were diagnosed with one mental disorder,” but by 2009 that number had rose to 96 percent. Guthman also noticed that, “the percentage of students with moderate to severe depression has gone up from 34 to 41 percent.” The roots of depression and anxiety lay within many stratum, some of which include, “separation from family, sharing close living quarters with strangers, the formation of new social groups, intense academic pressures and the balancing of social engagements with academic and other life responsibilities.” Not to mention, the poor dietary habits of many college students, combined with a lack of sleep induced by late nights spent both partying and studying. Depressed individuals “are liable to be slow and less productive, to be indecisive and uncertain, and to make more mistakes. At home they will lack interest in their family and will be unable to enjoy their company and shared activities, and to participate in family life. They will be unable to demonstrate affection for loved ones and uninterested in love-making. They will tend to avoid friends and social gatherings, and be unable to derive satisfaction from hobbies and leisure interests,” this facilitating a drop not only in GPA but also in overall quality of life. In order to curb the serious effects of depression, one should,”Start their day in a positive way: one of the very best ways to do this is to get up and do some kind of physical exercise–yoga, or going hiking, running, or bicycling out of doors; create the habit of having adequate hours of sleep, eat in a balanced way, and get physical exercise at some point at least four days a week; start building your self-esteem. Remember low self-esteem is a symptom of depression. If you have scars from your past that bring on negative thoughts about yourself, talk to close friends, a priest, or a counselor about them. There is no reason for you to feel inadequate; Learn to manage stress. Too much stress can weigh you down. It can be tricky, but get away from the things that are stressing you out for a while, or confront the problems causing the stress–don’t just passively accept it; Make sure to see your family doctor to determine if you might need to talk to a psychiatrist. We want to avoid drugs for depression if we possibly can, but they might be necessary in some situations.” Depression is a serious issue among college students, but by following these steps, one can reduce the negative effects of depression.

    Comment by Kelsey Domb — March 2, 2012 @ 4:23 pm

  20. Another interesting factor in the relation between stress, depression and college students is how students perceive their academic control. As students continue on with higher education they are provided with more of an opportunity to control their academic outcome, less pressure from teachers and parents leaves students to control their time management and quality of work; however, most students come to college and think that things are entirely out of their control due to more difficult or just more academic work. Perceived academic outcome is shown to have a positive association with social support and optimism and a negative association with anxiety and stress. In a study done by Ruthig, et al. 2009, the perceived academic outcome of freshman was found to be a mediator of the effects of optimism and social support on a students psychological health later on, and can therefore predict levels of depression and stress. This is extremely important because perceived academic outcome is something more malleable than optimism and social support, and more tactics can be made to increase student’s sense of academic control by the University in question. Along with other mentioned “cures”, like more sleep and herbal remedies, increasing a student’s perceived academic control could help struggling students, especially freshmen, in the long run.

    Ruthig J, Haynes T, Stupnisky R and Perry R (2009) Perceived Academic Control: mediating the effects of optimism and social support on college students’ psychological health. Social Psychology of Education 12(2):233-249

    Comment by Katie Taylor — March 19, 2012 @ 7:15 pm

  21. While the author of this article brought up a lot of interesting points about the effects of stress and anxiety on one’s academic performance in college, I think it would have been interesting to see these statistics blocked for parent’s income. In an article published earlier this month, Elise Gould highlighted troubling statistics that indicate one’s academic performance in college can be better predicted by family income than one’s previous academic record itself. She went as far as to point out that even high performing low income students graduate college at a lower rate than low achieving high income students. I think one can infer that students from more affluent backgrounds would have more tools at their disposal to deal with depression onset by the transition to college than those students with more humble backgrounds.


    Comment by Daniel Killian — March 30, 2012 @ 4:38 pm

  22. While I believe that depression is a serious condition that deserves significant attention, I also think that it is a fairly nebulous condition–it is hard to determine the extent of a ‘low mood’ in a person, as knowledge of this is often based off what a potential patient communicates. For example, while the DSM-IV criteria (what doctors use to determine depression) is definitely helpful in diagnosis, it can’t give an accurate representation of how bad the depression is; a doctor won’t know the extent of the potential harm that a specific patient’s depression might have on his or her physical health. Studies that involve lab-based tests such as the button-pressing task in this one are still limited in scope, in that it’s hard to generalize from the rewards offered in the study to potential rewards that the students involved face in day-to-day life. I’m wondering whether research should also focus more on neurophysiological indications of depression–maybe, for instance, using MRI’s for research regarding which areas of the brain are affected by depression and the extent to which they are affected.

    On that note, interestingly, a study at Harvard (news article: ) showed that MRI scans themselves appear to be correlated with mood improvements in patients suffering from depression. According to this study, 77% of the subjects gave indications of elevated moods after MRI scans. Research into this still appears to be in its infancy at the moment, however.

    Comment by Ben Chin — April 18, 2012 @ 6:13 pm

  23. In the last decade the number of college students on psychiatric medicines increased more than ten percent. (Neighmond, 2011) When a young adult leaves his or her familiar and safe family structure, and goes into a new challenging environment with completely different peers, the stress and distance can be overwhelming. I believe that counseling and treatment can be very effective if a student receives it. However, it has come as a shock to me, that with depression on the rise, many schools have experienced recent budget cuts to their mental health programs. Most schools only have a psychiatrist available only a few hours a week, leaving a great shortage of specialized help when students are in need.
    In defense of these schools, it is important to recognize that certain students attending would not have been able to come ten years ago, but are now on antidepressants or antipsychotic medication, so they are functioning fairly well.
    This makes me question what can be done for students coming in who are already depressed, and if different tactics should be used prevent healthy students from spiraling downward into this serious state.

    Comment by Leigh Anne Baldwin — April 30, 2012 @ 9:32 am

  24. Feeling a lack of control is absolutely a major factor when it comes to how college students function. Even if someone feels in control academically, the lack of control that most of us inevitably feel as we adjust to college life can still have a negative impact on grades. I agree that feeling supported by those close to you, whether it be friends at school or family from home, is crucial in order to maintain focus academically. If your personal life feels out of control, everything else becomes harder to focus on and it is difficult to feel motivated by grades. This of course leads students to feeling out of control academically as well. Until ones personal life is in order, it can feel impossible to completely focus on overwhelming assignments.

    Comment by Carly Belko — April 30, 2012 @ 10:02 pm

  25. The statistics posted by Kelsey are a cause for concern, and they lead to an interesting question: Why did the percentage of students with moderate to severe depression rise from 34 to 41 percent? It is noted that separation from family, living in close quarters with others, the formation of new social groups, and academic pressures can be the roots of depression. But these factors have always been a part of the college experience. What, then, can we attribute to the rather significant increase in the cases of depression among college students? Is more being expected of college students today than in the past in terms of workload? I think that could be part of the explanation, as I am having a hard time coming up with any other potential reasons — the college experience, possibly aside from the amount of work assigned, has remained relatively constant over the years.

    Comment by Jasdeep Achreja — April 30, 2012 @ 11:19 pm

  26. I would be interested to know whether there was any correlation between the numbers of students who suffered from depression first semester verses second semester. Not only is “getting back into the swing of things” sometimes and issue, seasonal depression would be at its worst first semester in particular. When the days are shorter and much colder—especially in New York, and Vassar having a large number of California students—it often makes it hard to stay motivated. It would be my first instinct to think that maybe there were a larger number of students suffering from serious depression first semester, therefore taking the second semester off.

    Comment by Cecilia Rosenbaum — May 1, 2012 @ 8:15 pm

  27. It would be interesting to observe what the most common specific triggers for depression in college students would be. Perhaps physiological factors experienced by those aged 15-24 make individuals more prone to experiencing symptoms of depression. If depression is most commonly experienced at the very beginning of peoples’ college careers, then it may be attributed to stress and pressure brought on by the transition from one’s home life to that of a college campus. Diet and exercise are two factors that have been linked to anxiety and depression in multiple psychological studies. One study, “Association of Western and Traditional Diets With Depression and Anxiety in Women,” found that women with well-balanced diets of grains, fruits, vegetables, meats, etc. tended to report better moods than those with unhealthy diets comprised largely of fried food, refined sugars, and alcohol. It is often the case that students change dietary patterns upon entering college, often for the worse, so this, too, may be one of many factors that put college students at high risk for depression.


    Comment by Janou Hooykaas — September 18, 2012 @ 9:21 pm

  28. Generally, college campuses offer many varieties of counseling when it comes to issues of anxiety and depression, so I wondered how these issues could still be so prevalent with aid so easily accessible. However, upon researching the issue more, I learned that the social stigma against seeking help really is what holds many students back and keeps them in the doldrums. According to a 2006 study, embarrassment is the main reason college students don’t involve themselves in some sort of campus counseling (Tartakovsky). And, “only 23 percent would be comfortable with a friend knowing they were getting help for emotional issues” (Tartakovsky). Since depression and anxiety are clearly such widespread issues that huge portions of college students tackle, you’d think communication about mutual hardship would be common. All suffer in many kinds of ways, so conversation should not be so quickly backed away from.

    Tartakovsky, M. (2012). Depression and Anxiety Among College Students. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 21, 2012, from

    Comment by Madeleine McCarthy — September 21, 2012 @ 10:46 am

  29. This post noted a connection between the plethora of stressors found in college life and an increase in the prevalence of depression amongst college students. Furthermore, the post specifically noted the transition from the comfort and safety of home life to the unfamiliar environment of a college campus as one potential stressor. As such, I would be curious to attempt to quantify the extent to which this particular factor affects rates of depression. To do this, I would be interested in measuring rates of depression in students who had attended a boarding school prior to enrolling in a residential college versus students who had not lived away from home (for any substantial amount of time) before living on a college campus. I suspect that students who have spent time at boarding schools might be better equipped to handle the stressors of college life, particularly in terms of comfort living away from home and with a roommate, greater familiarity with issues of time management and responsible decision making, and exposure to the stress of challenging academic curricula. However, I am not sure whether the extra preparation for college, which a boarding school may or may not provide would be manifested in lower rates of depression amongst boarding school-educated college students.
    It would also be worth identifying whether the population of 15-24 year-olds who do not attend college has comparable rates of depression to the population of 15-24 year-old college students. If the rates of depression were comparable between the two groups of 15-24 year-olds, it might suggest that the prevalence of depression has less to do with the specific stressors of the college experience and more to do with hormonal shifts or even socialization within the 15-24 year old age range.

    Comment by Ishan Desai-Geller — September 25, 2012 @ 3:49 pm

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The Silver is the New Black Theme. Blog at


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