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Mental Health in American Colleges and Universities: Variation Across Student Subgroups and Across Campuses

Eisenberg, Daniel PhD*; Hunt, Justin MD, MS; Speer, Nicole PhD

The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease: January 2013 - Volume 201 - Issue 1 - p 60–67
doi: 10.1097/NMD.0b013e31827ab077
Original Articles

We estimated the prevalence and correlates of mental health problems among college students in the United States. In 2007 and 2009, we administered online surveys with brief mental health screens to random samples of students at 26 campuses nationwide. We used sample probability weights to adjust for survey nonresponse. A total of 14,175 students completed the survey, corresponding to a 44% participation rate. The prevalence of positive screens was 17.3% for depression, 4.1% for panic disorder, 7.0% for generalized anxiety, 6.3% for suicidal ideation, and 15.3% for nonsuicidal self-injury. Mental health problems were significantly associated with sex, race/ethnicity, religiosity, relationship status, living on campus, and financial situation. The prevalence of conditions varied substantially across the campuses, although campus-level variation was still a small proportion of overall variation in student mental health. The findings offer a starting point for identifying individual and contextual factors that may be useful to target in intervention strategies.

*Department of Health Management and Policy, School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; †Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock; and ‡Behavioral Science Research & Consulting, Limited Liability Company, Boulder, CO.

Send reprint requests to Daniel Eisenberg, PhD, Department of Health Management & Policy, School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2029. E-mail:

© 2013 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.