Study finds “strikingly high” rates of depression and anxiety among graduate students

Posted on March 9th, 2018

Grad students

Several studies suggest that graduate students are at greater risk for mental health issues than those in the general population.

This is largely due to social isolation, the often abstract nature of the work and feelings of inadequacy — not to mention the slim tenure-track job market.

But a new study in Nature Biotechnology warns, in no uncertain terms, of a mental health “crisis” in graduate education.

“Our results show that graduate students are more than six times as likely to experience depression and anxiety as compared to the general population,” the study says, urging action on the part of institutions.

“It is only with strong and validated interventions that academia will be able to provide help for those who are traveling through the bioscience workforce pipeline.”

The paper is based on a survey including clinically validated scales for anxiety and depression, deployed to students via email and social media.

The survey’s 2,279 respondents were mostly Ph.D. candidates (90 percent), representing 26 countries and 234 institutions.

Some 56 percent study humanities or social sciences, while 38 percent study the biological and physical sciences. Two percent are engineering students and 4 percent are enrolled in other fields.

Some 39 percent of respondents scored in the moderate-to-severe depression range, as compared to 6 percent of the general population measured previously with the same scale.

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