Among graduate trainees surveyed by US researchers, 41% had anxiety and 39% were depressed
Graduate students are more than six times as likely to suffer from depression and anxiety as the general population, according to an analysis by US researchers who say there is a ‘mental health crisis’ in the graduate trainee population.
The team says that while there is plenty of anecdotal evidence, the problem is understudied and this research goes some way towards providing hard data to illustrate its true extent.
They surveyed 2,279 graduate students in 26 countries, most of whom were PhD students from across various fields including biological and physical sciences. Of these, 41% scored as having moderate to severe anxiety, compared to 6% of the general population. In addition, 39% of the graduate students scored in the moderate to severe depression range, again compared with just 6% of the general population.
Transgender and gender-nonconforming graduate students appear to be particularly at risk of developing anxiety and depression, with an incidence of 55% for anxiety and 57% for depression, compared with about 42% and 35% for their female and male counterparts, respectively.
The researchers also reported the ‘alarming’ finding that 50% of respondents who experienced anxiety, depression or both did not agree that their principal investigator or advisor provides real mentorship. The results, they argue, show a need to establish and expand mental health and career development resources for graduate students through actions like faculty training.
T Evans et al, Nature Biotechnology, 2018, DOI: 10.1038/nbt.4089