Persistence of mental health problems and needs in a college student population

Kara Zivin, Daniel Eisenberg, Sarah E. Gollust, Ezra Golberstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

393 Scopus citations


Background: Cross-sectional studies indicate a high prevalence of mental health problems among college students, but there are fewer longitudinal data on these problems and related help-seeking behavior. Methods: We conducted a baseline web-based survey of students attending a large public university in fall 2005 and a two-year follow-up survey in fall 2007. We used brief screening instruments to measure symptoms of mental disorders (anxiety, depression, eating disorders), as well as self-injury and suicidal ideation. We estimated the persistence of these mental health problems between the two time points, and determined to what extent students with mental health problems perceived a need for or used mental health services (medication or therapy). We conducted logistic regression analyses examining how baseline predictors were associated with mental health and help-seeking two years later. Results: Over half of students suffered from at least one mental health problem at baseline or follow-up. Among students with at least one mental health problem at baseline, 60% had at least one mental health problem two years later. Among students with a mental health problem at both time points, fewer than half received treatment between those time points. Limitations: Mental health problems are based on self-report to brief screens, and the sample is from a single university. Conclusions: These findings indicate that mental disorders are prevalent and persistent in a student population. While the majority of students with probable disorders are aware of the need for treatment, most of these students do not receive treatment, even over a two-year period.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)180-185
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Issue number3
StatePublished - Oct 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding for this study was provided by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of Michigan and the following sponsors at the University of Michigan: the Comprehensive Depression Center (Pilot Innovation Fund to DE and Rachel Upjohn Clinical Scholars Award to KZ), McNerney Award, School of Public Health, the Office of the Vice President for Research, and Rackham Graduate School. None of the study's funding agencies had any further role in the study design; in the collection, analysis and interpretation of data; in the writing of the report; and in the decision to submit the paper for publication.


  • Anxiety
  • College student
  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Self-injury
  • Suicidal ideation


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