Comparing experiences with mental health issues to perceptions of their prevalence: A study of Duke University undergraduates
By Sean P. Woytowitz, Dr. Paul Seli, Ph.D.
Department of Psychology & Neuroscience, Duke University
Mental illness affects all populations but has disproportionately affected college students in the recent past. Universities provide a unique setting in which students often live away from their families and must make an effort to stay socially engaged. While plenty of research on mental health has been conducted on children and adults, the field is lacking in research on college-aged individuals. The present study identifies the frequency of symptoms of depression and anxiety among the Duke University undergraduate community, as well as demographic factors that are correlated with these symptoms. The data were obtained through a survey asking students about their experiences with well-established symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. The data indicate that students at Duke University experience symptoms of depression and anxiety at a higher rate compared to the average 18-29 year old person in the United States. Other findings include a greater prevalence of mental illness symptoms among low-income students, students with small social-circles, and non-religious students. The results of this study and related studies to follow will be used to inform improvements to mental health counseling and outreach to at-risk individuals at universities across the United States.