Research on Adolescent and Young Adult Mental Health

Data Point of the Month

We are excited to feature a “Data Point of the Month” series! Each data point we share in this series aims to highlight an interesting finding from our national Healthy Minds Study or other data sets.

December 2020

The COVID-19 Pandemic has been associated with increased resilience in college students, highlighting the adaptability and positive outcomes from the stressful environment brought on by the pandemic.

November 2020

The COVID-19 Pandemic was correlated to changes in help-seeking behavior using HMN Data from Winter 2020 semester. Notably, an increased proportion of students were willing to seek help from clinicians, friends, and significant others during the pandemic.

October 2020

The 2016 U.S. presidential election was associated with rises in anti-Muslim rhetoric, policy, and hate crimes. using Healthy Minds Study data, researchers from the Healthy Minds Network analyzed the impacts of the 2016 election on Muslim college student mental health.

September 2020

In the Spring of 2020, ACHA and HMN surveyed students on topics related to COVID-19. One of the data points measured was student concern for personally contracting COVID-19. As we enter a new and unique academic year, institutions should be mindful of students' perceived risk regarding COVID-19.

August 2020

A 2018 Healthy Minds Study found that students of color have lower rates of diagnoses, medication use, and therapy/help-seeking behavior compared to white students. These findings highlight the need for culturally specific outreach and education to combat stigma and encourage service utilization.

July 2020

According to a joint survey conducted by the Healthy Minds Study and National College Health Assessment of more than 18,000 college students, around 60% reported increased difficulty in accessing mental healthcare due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. These findings highlight the importance of higher education strategies that better reach students to provide enhanced access to mental health treatment 


September 2018: We know that sexual assault is on the forefront of everyone’s minds, and today we take a look at this issue on U.S. college and university campuses. From our national Healthy Minds Study survey data, we know that 1 in 10 students indicate that they have experienced sexual assault in the past year (79% identifying as female). This translates to 2 million students nationwide. 72% of these students screen positive for one or more significant mental health problem (compared to 47% of students without a sexual assault history). 97% of students who indicated that they have been sexually assaulted did not report this to their campus officials. These data highlight the importance of continued research and practice efforts to prevent sexual assault and create a climate where victims are more comfortable reporting incidents and seeking help.

August 2018: This month’s DPM comes from our recent publication in the Journal of Adolescent Health. In this study, we examined mental health symptoms, knowledge, attitudes, and service utilization in a diverse sample of students using our 2012-2015 Healthy Minds data. We looked separately at Black/African American, Latinx, Asian, Arab/Arab American, and White students. Across race/ethnicity, we found modest variation in symptom prevalence and significant variation in service utilization. Overall, results indicate that students of color represent a disparities population based on greater unmet mental health needs. As shown below, we also found that students of color have lower levels of knowledge and higher levels of stigma, helping to explain treatment disparities. In particular, we know from our previous research that personal stigma is a key determinant of help-seeking for mental health (see our 2009 article in Medical Care Research and Review by Eisenberg et al.). In the 2018 JAH article, we found that Asian students had the highest levels of personal stigma and the lowest rates of help-seeking. This study provides the most detailed evidence to date on mental health and service use among college students of color at a national level. For the full article, please visit our list of publications.

July 2018:  In an upcoming study (to be published next month), our team examined mental health symptoms and service utilization in a diverse sample of students that participated in the Healthy Minds Study. We look separately at Black/African American, Latinx, Asian, Arab/Arab American, and White students. Across race/ethnicity, we find modest variation in symptom prevalence and significant variation in service utilization. Among students with a positive screen for one or more mental health conditions (depression, anxiety, eating disorder, non-suicidal self-injury, and/or suicidal ideation), lifetime mental health diagnoses and past-year treatment (counseling/therapy and/or psychotropic medication use) are lower among students of color relative to White students. Just 21% of Black students with clinically-significant symptoms have been diagnosed compared to 48% of White students. For past-year treatment, only 23% of Asian students in need sought mental health services compared to 46% of White students. Overall, results indicate that students of color represent a disparities population based on greater unmet mental health needs.

June 2018: June is Pride Month! Now and always, it is essential that we do everything we can as researchers, practitioners, clinicians, and advocates to understand and support the mental and emotional wellbeing of the LGBTQ+ community. In particular, LGBTQ+ youth represent a vulnerable group with regard to mental health. We know that these youth experience a disproportionate burden of bullying, school victimization, harassment, abuse, and hostility that negatively affect mental health. In our Data Point of the Month, we share findings from the 2015-2017 Healthy Minds Study, which include over 80,000 students from 77 college and university campuses. In the survey, students were asked to report their sex at birth and their current gender identity (two separate questions). Students who identified as transgender, genderqueer, or self-identified gender are included as ‘gender minority students’ (N=1,612). As shown below, gender minority students have lower levels of flourishing (positive mental health), higher rates of depression, and far more report making a suicide plan in the past year relative to their cisgender peers.

April 2018: International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination seeks to raise awareness, to combat racism and related intolerance, and to promote inclusion, unity and respect for diversity. Through our Data Point of the Month, we are raising awareness of students’ experiences of discrimination on college and university campuses and how this relates to mental health outcomes. In our Healthy Minds Study data, students of color consistently report experiencing high levels of discrimination. In our sample, nearly two-thirds of African American students report that they experienced discrimination in the past year. As shown in the chart below, discrimination is associated with mental health problems; symptoms of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and suicidal ideation are all higher among students who experienced discrimination in the past year. For example, 35% of students who experienced discrimination screen positive for depression (a PHQ-9 score>10) relative to 23% of students who did not experience discrimination.

March 2018: Stereotypes about who develops eating disorders are important because they contribute to disparities in treatment and outcomes. In our March Data Point of the Month, we report variations in eating disorder prevalence and diagnosis according to weight status, race, socioeconomic background, and sex among nearly 2,000 students with symptoms of an eating disorder based on the DSM-V criteria. In this sample, 2% were underweight, 80% were White, 19% were affluent, and 85% were female. In other words, the vast majority of individuals with symptoms of an eating disorder were not underweight (98%), a sizeable percentage were non-white (20%), most were non-affluent (81%), and a small, but significant proportion were male (15%). In this sample, only 11% of students had been diagnosed with an eating disorder. Individuals meeting the SWAG stereotype were significantly more likely to be diagnosed, as shown in the figure below.

February 2018: We examine two items related to campus climate and supportiveness from the 2016-2017 Healthy Minds Study survey data:

Item #1: “At my school, we are a campus where we look out for each other.”

Item #2: “I am responsible to help if a friend is struggling.”

In a sample of approximately 28,000 students, we find that most students feel a sense of personal responsibility to help friends who are struggling, and yet less than half of students perceive a supportive climate on their campus. Students with suicidal thoughts are especially unlikely to perceive a supportive climate.These findings can inform campus practice, including stigma reduction campaigns and gatekeeper training programs. For example, they point to the value of making students more aware of their peers’ desire to support each other.

November 2017: November 11-19 is National Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week. Our Healthy Minds Network survey research on community college campuses underscores a harsh reality: many community college students struggle to provide for their basic needs of food and shelter. Healthy Minds Study data from more than 4,000 undergraduates at 10 community colleges across the nation reveal that half of students are struggling with food and/or housing insecurity. Students who experience food insecurity tend to also experience housing insecurity, and vice versa. Among students with low or very low levels of food security, 73% were also housing insecure, including 23% who were homeless. Among housing insecure students, 58% also experienced food insecurity, and among homeless students, 75% also experienced food insecurity. These numbers are startling and indicate the need for a multi-pronged, comprehensive set of institutional, state, and local policies to alleviate the barriers presented by poverty, so as to improve student success and well-being.

October 2017: October’s data point reflects that perceived public stigma is still pervasive on college campuses. The figure below shows the distribution of responses to one of the Healthy Minds Study’s perceived public stigma items (Most people would think less of someone who has received mental health treatment) as compared with responses to the analogous personal stigma item (I would think less of someone who has received mental health treatment). Among approximately 46,000 students from 54 campuses who participated in HMS during the 2016-2017 academic year, the majority somewhat agreed (28%) with the perceived stigma statement, whereas the vast majority strongly disagreed with the personal stigma item (59%). Additionally only 32% of students disagreed or strongly disagreed with the perceived public stigma statement, compared to 86% who disagreed or strongly disagreed with the personal stigma item.

September 2017: September is National Suicide Prevention Month. In recognition of this important time of year, the Healthy Minds Network is launching our Campus Suicide Awareness Series. This series will include weekly updates with data surrounding suicide prevalence, risk, and related factors in college populations. We encourage you to join us in raising awareness of suicide on campus by widely sharing our data points.

Please subscribe to our listserv, follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and regularly check in with our Campus Suicide Awareness Series webpage to stay up-to-date.

August 2017: With the upcoming school year in mind, August’s Data Point focuses on first-year students’ confidence that they will persist, examining confidence overall and among students with and without depressive symptoms. Among nearly 8,000 first-year students from 48 campuses who participated in the Healthy Minds Study during the 2016-2017 academic year, 47% strongly agreed that they would finish their degree no matter what challenges they may face. One-third of first-year students screened positive for depression based on the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9). Among those with depression, just 30% strongly agreed that they would persist to graduation, compared to 56% of those without depressive symptoms. Nearly all first-year students with depression (94%) reported that mental health difficulties had impaired their academic performance over the past month.

*Note: Figure values are weighted percentages (%). With Depression=PHQ-9 score >10; Without Depression=PHQ-9 score <10.  Data: 2016-2017 Healthy Minds Study | N=7,691 first-year undergraduates on 48 campuses.

June 2017: June is LGBTQ Pride month! For our data point of the month, please check out this infographic about LGBTQ college student mental health that our partners at Active Minds created using data from the Healthy Minds Study. The infographic includes a number of key statistics, including that nearly 25% of students who identify as LGBTQ report suicidal ideation, compared to less than 10% of students who do not identify as such. Click the infographic below for the full-size image!

May 2017: With college graduation happening on campuses across the country, this is an important time to think about the role that mental health plays in students’ academic experiences. May’s DPM acknowledges that students suffering from depression face significant challenges in college compared to their peers. For a significant portion of those students, these challenges result in them dropping out of college, all together. According to results from Eisengberg, Golberstein, and Hunt’s 2009 paper, with updated findings from our Healthy Minds Study survey data during the 2015-16 academic year:

  1. More students with depression have doubts about whether college is worth their time, money, and efforts (36.11%) relative to students without depression (16.63%; p<0.001).
  2. Students with depression are only 88.86% confident that they will finish their college degree, on average, whereas students without depression are 96.29% confident, on average (p<0.001).
  3. Students with depression are two -times more likely to drop out than students without depression.

March 2017: Students with schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic disorders represent some of the most vulnerable students on college and university campuses. This Data Point of the Month explores sense of belonging among students with psychotic disorders (N=136) compared to students without such a diagnosis (N=45,002), using 2014-2016 HMS data. Over half of students without a psychotic disorder (52%) strongly agree/agree with the statement “I see myself as a part of the campus community”, compared to less than one-quarter of students with a psychotic disorder (24%). Likewise, 21% of students without compared to 51% of students with a psychotic disorder strongly disagree/disagree with this statement.

December 2016: December’s Data Point of the Month comes from the recently published analysis (Pedrelli, Borsari, Lipson, Heinze, & Eisenberg, 2016) of combined HMS data from 2007-2013. Over these years, 11.7% of females and 11.4% of male college students surveyed in the national HMS screened positively for both Major Depression Disorder (MDD) and Heavy Episodic Drinking (HED). Of these high-risk groups, only 32.71% of females and 24.31% of males actually were engaged in mental health treatment during the year of their survey response. Among students who were not part of this high-risk group, rates of help-seeking behaviors were even lower. This unfortunately indicates that all college students, even those with the highest risk of severe mental health problems, are not adequately being engaged in treatment, therapy, or counseling.

November 2016: Our data point this month comes from our 2015-16 HMS national data report. During the 2015-2016 academic year, about 50% of college students surveyed in the national Healthy Minds Study (HMS) indicated that they needed help for emotional or mental health problems yet only 23% of students received counseling or therapy. It is important to understand the barriers preventing students from accessing available services on their campuses.

October 2016: This Data Point of the Month illustrates the clear relationship between mental health and academic outcomes. In the graph below, you can see that as PHQ-9 depression scores increase from 0 (no symptoms of depression) to 27 (symptoms of severe major depression), students report less confidence that they will complete their degree. About 95% of students with no/low symptoms strongly agree/agree that they “will be able to finish my degree no matter what challenges I may face” compared to less than half of students with the highest depression symptom levels.

September 2016: This month’s data point highlights one of Katie Buchholz’s (a presenter of this month’s webinar) findings pertaining to sexual assault and help-seeking rates. Among students reporting a past-year sexual assault and screening positive for a mental health issue, she examined the difference between rates of seeking informal help (e.g., from friends, family, etc.) and seeking professional help (e.g., from psychiatrist, psychologist, etc.). She finds that 90.5% of these students have received informal help in the previous year, whereas only 57.4% have received professional help. This highlights the importance of ensuring that people in the informal support network have the information and skills to respond appropriately when victims of sexual assault reach out to them.

August 2016: This month we examined a survey items related to bystander intervention behaviors. Students were asked whether, in the past year, they had witnessed certain situations and whether they had intervened by trying to help. An important next step is to understand more about what motivates students to intervene in particular situations and not intervene in others. Here is an overview of the results.

Bystanding: “In the past year, I witnessed the following risky or difficult situations but did NOT intervene”:

Risky drinking: 20%
Possible sexual assault: 2%
Hurtful language: 14%
Emotional distress: 4%

Upstanding: “In the past year, I have intervened in the following situations”:

Risky drinking: 34%
Possible sexual assault: 8%
Hurtful language: 31%
Emotional distress: 36%

June 2016: This month we are focusing on a survey question related to campus climate and culture. Students were asked whether they agreed or disagreed with the following statement: “At my school, I feel that the academic environment has a negative impact on students’ mental and emotional well-being”. Just over one-third (37.4%) believe that the academic environment has a negative impact on student well-being. This varies from a low of 15.2% at one campus to a high of 77.2% at another campus. An important next step is to understand more about why this perception varies so much across campuses.

April 2016: With final exams approaching at many schools, we thought you might be interested in the relationship between anxiety symptoms and the amount of time that students spend on schoolwork. The chart below indicates that anxiety is highest among students who spend a very little amount of time on schoolwork and also those who spend a very large amount of time, as compared to those in the middle.