Students with depression likely to drop out of college

College students with depression are twice as likely as their classmates to drop out of school, and lower grade point averages depended upon a student’s type of depression.

The new study was conducted by Daniel Eisenberg, assistant professor in the University of Michigan School of Public Health.

There are two core symptoms of depression, one is loss of interest and other is pleasure in activities, or depressed mood. Only loss of interest is associated with lower grade point averages.

“The correlation between depression and academic performance is mainly driven by loss of interest in activities,” Eisenberg said. “This is significant because it means individuals can be very depressed and very functional, depending on which type of depression they have. I think that this can be true for many high achieving people, who may feel down and hopeless but not lose interest in activities.

“Lots of students who have significant depression on some dimension are performing just fine, but may be at risk and go unnoticed because there is no noticeable drop in functioning.”

Students with both depression and anxiety had especially poor academic performance.

In the study, Eisenberg and his colleagues conducted a Web survey of a random sample of approximately 2,800 undergraduate and graduate students about a range of mental health issues in fall 2005, and conducted a follow-up survey with a subset of the sample in fall 2007.

The dropout rate for University of Michigan students is about 5 percent per year, which is much lower than the national average, Eisenberg says. This likely reflects the type of high-achieving students Michigan attracts, along with U-M’s support network for students experiencing emotional problems or depression.

Many students with depression—as with the general population—remain untreated. “Maybe the biggest reason is only about 50 percent of people with depression say they think they need help,” Eisenberg said. “College students in particular may feel that stress is normal.”

Source: University of Michigan, USA

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