Mental Health Statistics Amongst Us Psych Students!

Posted on: October 28, 2011

According to scientific studies, between the ages of 18-25, students like us are at the most risk of suffering with a mental health disorder, but why is this? (See Figure 1 below)

According to Kitzrow (2010), , the answer lies more within the students who study psychology; as she believes, that many students don’t just choose psychology because they like the subject, but they purposefully seek to understand the ways in which the human mind works in order to understand themselves and those close to them more.  Afterall, if we can relate to something, we are more likely to empathise! (M. Bennett, 1979).  By researching the amount of students that went to see university counsellors, she found that 46% of all course students were from the psychology sector and the rest (all in single digit percentages!) were from the other subjects.     But this doesn’t necessarily mean that we psychology students have any more reason to visit a counsellor than any other student!

Youngminds.org claim that only 1 in 10 young adults actually seek out support between the ages of 18-25; perhaps this is the number that we should be paying more attention to?  For example, agreeing with Kitzrow – we do study psychology for a reason, but not necessarily because we instantly have worse problems than our non-psych peers!   Psychology students may be more at ease with the stigma because they study psychology, rather than because our problems are definititively more problematic than other students’!  We may understand that seeking help for when we feel anxious, or stressed, or for many other reasons isn’t all so bad because we could (in future) be sat where that university counsellor is sitting!  So maybe those statistics for the 1 in 10 young people seeking help may be different for us psychs?  Perhaps we’re just less fickle about opening up?  Other students may not understand that it’s okay to talk, and this may be the reason why we stand at 46% in comparison to our peers.

Across the age ranges, 23% of us will suffer from a mental health condition at some point (MIND.co.uk/NHS) but these statistics are only taken from those who admit that there is or has been a problem.  As psychology students, we are instantly double that number!  But the research shouldn’t necessarily be looking at those of us who admit that there’s a problem, rather than, it should be focused on those who don’t!

Luo Lu (2009)  believes that university students are more disposed to suffering and opening up with our mental health due to our five big personality traits! Our extroversion, conscientiousness, neuroticism, openness, and agreeableness are all characteristics of us ending up at university in the first place!  We must afterall, be pretty conscientious to end up as undergraduates and stay in education; those students who are a little more extroverted and less neurotic, may be more inclined to experiment with drugs; her findings also suggested that those who were the more extroverted students were more likely to suffer with insomnia and sleep disorders (from all those late night parties, right? :P) and those who were neurotic were more likely to have anxiety and depression disorders.

In conclusion, we are at a very strange age range when it comes to our mental health; there could be a number of reasons why we have the most issues at this age, but there really isn’t a definative answer!  All I can say to my psych peers is, either we’re opening up to our support services how we should and we should all have a pat on the back, or in reality we are part of the crazy club and need to be slowly wheeled away…

Are we seeking too much support or are our non-psych peers not doing it enough?


[All references are hyperlinked]


5 Responses to "Mental Health Statistics Amongst Us Psych Students!"

You have raised some interesting points, and i must admit that i have self-diagnosed myself with various disorders, such as schizophrenia (paranoid much?). But i think that there may be a further issue that may be playing a part, particularly for psychology students; paranoia/medical school syndrome (outlined here: http://www.medterms.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=30951)/ or just general hypochondria (which i have displayed brilliantly). The simple fact is that if you study something, you will no more about it. When studying things such as mental disorders, as you learn you will become more and more aware of various signs and symptoms. You may well display , perfectly innocently, one of these symptoms, yet you interpret it to mean that you are seriously ill. this may explain why so many of us poor students flock to the nearest therapist. This article (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2267854/) however, suggests that trivially (and falsely) diagnosing yourself is no laughing matter, and that it can actually cause genuine problems. That may also explain why so many of us go to therapists, as our percieved illnesses have caused genuine ones!!

You choose very interesting topics to write your blog. They are very informative.
In your first paragraph you have mentioned what Kitzrow (2010) told. I completely agree with it as I personally took psychology, as I wanted to understand how the human mind works so that I can understand people more.
In common American Psychology association has found that mental illness has increased among college students. In 1998 Gutman said that 93 percent of students going to the clinic were diagnosed with mental disorder. It increased in 2009 to 96 percent. But there is one good news from Gutman that the number of student with suicide thought decreased after two weeks counselling from 26 percent in 1998 to 11 percent in 2009.
Lets hope that the number of students with mental disorder decreases in the next few years.

In response to tellsttales’s point that self-diagnosing is dangerous, I would like to bring up the strong evidence that backs up the real presence of placebo effects and show how they can be as effective, if not, more than a drug. A placebo effect is when some people experience some type of benefit (which could be improving in health, physically and mentally) after administering a substance that has no known medical effects (e.g. sterile water or a sugar pill). Within the medical field the majority of new drugs and their effectiveness and often tested against placebo’s to see whether or not it has a significantly more beneficial effect than the placebo (Hróbjartsson and Norup, 2003). Irving Kirsch demonstrated in his book, The Emperor’s New Drugs’ the effectiveness of placebo’s and how antidepressants are only marginally more effective than placebo’s. Of course this raises numerous questions such as, ‘Why are antidepressants so popular?’ Well, that is a debate Kirsch goes into in depth, so if it something that interests you and if you want to hear about the seductions of myths and the stubbornness of facts then I would strongly advise giving it a read! In relation to this post, however, I merely wanted to back up tellssttale’s good point that self-diagnosing is extremely dangerous, because something doesn’t have to have a physical effect on a person to create a mental one. This brings me to link this comment to the post and state that these kind of statistics could lead to people self-diagnosing, which is a major concern.


Hróbjartsson A, Norup M (June 2003). The use of placebo interventions in medical practice–a national questionnaire survey of Danish clinicians. Evaluation & the Health Professions 26(2), 153–65.

I loved your blog, your raise a lot of issues and hopefully if many read it it will reduce stigma. I have found that in the school of psychology there is still a lot of naivety in how to respond to those with mental health difficulties, there appears to be a large gap between what people know and learn and how they apply that knowledge. I have found this out from personal experience, even to the point where a GP stated “youre a psychology student why cant you sort yourself out” I think the statistics about mental health in the general population should be shown in health campaigns to raise awareness.”1 in 4 people will experience some kind of mental health problem in the course of a year yet there is so much stigma and ignorance.”http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/help-information/mental-health-statistics/ psychology is one of the most popular topics ( http://www.thecompleteuniversityguide.co.uk/careers/profiles/psychology/) could this be because we are all going nuts? and looking for the answer?

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