Depression and anxiety in undergraduate students: a longitudinal prospective cohort study of the university experience

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Division of Psychiatry

Abstract

This study aims to improve our understanding of factors associated with mental health issues in students. At present, mental health crises and suicides are reported to be increasing in students, and university and NHS services are under-resourced for this increased demand. Whilst risk factors for depression and anxiety in the general population are well-understood, the nature of the student experience may lead to increased vulnerability to mental health problems, and few studies have explored this. The wide influence of universities over various aspects of their students' lives represents a unique opportunity to improve the mental health of a large proportion of young people in the UK. I therefore propose to conduct a longitudinal study to examine the association between aspects of the university experience - namely financial strain and degree course characteristics - and symptoms of depression and anxiety in students. I will recruit, through university contacts, 840 full-time first-year undergraduate students from universities in England. I will circulate an online survey at four time points: before, twice during, and after their first year of university. Students will be asked about their financial situation (in both objective and subjective terms), characteristics of their particular degree course (such as contact hours and workload), and their symptoms of depression and anxiety. Functional outcomes will also be measured, including help-seeking behaviour and academic achievement. We expect this study to have policy implications for the prevention and treatment of mental health problems at both university and government levels.

However, this is what I used to apply for the ESRC +3 scheme, which I was later withdrawn from. I will actually be doing the MRC 1+3 scheme, where I undertake lab rotations in the first year and at the end of this first year finalise my project design/setup. The ESRC are part-funding me to do this 50/50, so there is the informal understanding that I will be doing at least something similar to the project above (and certainly with Glyn as my supervisor), but it is not official.

Publications

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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000592/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
1918347 Studentship ES/P000592/1 16/08/2017 30/09/2021 Tayla Louise McCloud