*The following is excerpted from an online article posted by HealthDay.
Starting college can be a time of fun, new experiences, and growth. Yet it can also be a rough transition for many students who struggle with mental health issues.
A new study from researchers in the United Kingdom and Canada found about one-third of first-year students have or develop moderate to severe anxiety or depression.
When these young adults had increasing use of illicit drugs, they had greater odds of developing high levels of anxiety or depression. Yet if they were more socially active, their mental health tended to be better.
“We’ve been seeing that the mental health of college students has been deteriorating,” said Dr. Rachel Conrad, director of young adult mental health at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. She was not involved in the study.
“Prior to the [COVID-19] pandemic, alcohol use had been decreasing, but stress, depression, anxiety, trauma, and suicidal thoughts had been increasing. And then during the pandemic, alcohol use increased significantly in the college-age population as well,” Conrad said.
The study was led by Kiera Louise Adams, a doctoral student at the University of Oxford in England. She and her colleagues analyzed nearly 1,700 responses from a survey of first-year undergraduates at a public Canadian university taken in September 2018 and in March 2019.
About 32% of respondents had anxiety at the start of the academic year and 27% had depressive symptoms. Six months later, 37% of students had anxiety symptoms and 33% experienced depressive symptoms.
Students who had a history of internalizing disorders, such as anxiety and depression, when they began were almost four times as likely not to recover from significant levels of anxiety/depressive symptoms as those without that history, according to the research. Conversely, students who felt connected to university life and their peers had greater odds of recovering.
The findings were published in BMJ Open.