Depression Rates on the Rise Among College Kids

A new study says that more college-aged kids are struggling with depression. Find out why and get telltale signs that your teen could be suffering.

Girl puts her head in her hands while sitting on the ground next to a book bag

The college years can be full of learning and excitement – but they can also be a time of stress and emotional turmoil.

Depression rates among young people have been on the rise, according to the Mayo Clinic, with more college students than ever facing the mood disorder. And now, a new study from Ithaca College in New York highlights that trend.

The research, being conducted by its college faculty and students since 2009 and surveying about 2,500 students, found that anxiety and depression have “increased dramatically” at Ithaca College over the past 10 years – from 2 percent of students meeting criteria for severe depression in 2009 to 8 percent of students meeting that criteria in 2019, The Ithacan reports.

As for why that might be, associate professor of psychology Hugh Stephenson said it’s hard to say, especially since many factors – like social support, alcohol use and stress – haven’t changed significantly over the same time frame. But the researchers did point to a possible link to social media.

“Social media is super–filtered in a way people wouldn’t think,” senior Michael Yeung said in the article. “When you go on Facebook or Instagram, everyone’s just posting positive things. If you’re in a negative space and you see a hundred people posting positive things, it almost perpetuates you staying depressed or just having a negative mindset.”

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College students may be more prone to depression, the Mayo Clinic notes, due to new challenges and pressure like potential homesickness, living on their own for the first time, academic pressure, money problems and other sources of stress.

“Dealing with these changes during the transition from adolescence to adulthood can trigger or unmask depression during college in some young adults,” the article explains.

5 signs of college depression

So how can parents keep their young adult children safe while they’re away at college – or even living at home and commuting to college but not sharing how they feel? Consider these common signs of college depression from the Mayo Clinic. Find more here.

  1. Feeling sad, tearful or hopeless
  2. Irritability, frustration or unreasonable outbursts
  3. No longer enjoying normal activities, like hobbies or sports
  4. Sleep disturbances, like being unable to sleep or sleeping too much
  5. Feeling tired or having limited energy

How to help

If your child or someone else you know seems to be struggling with depression, consider these tips on how to help, courtesy of the National Institute of Mental Health.

  • Offer support, understanding, patience and encouragement
  • Never ignore comments about suicide; report them to your loved one’s health care provider or therapist
  • Invite him or her out for walks, outings, and other activities
  • Help your loved one follow their treatment plan, like reminding them to take medication or offering them a ride to therapy
  • Remind him or her that, with time and treatment, the depression will lift

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